September 19, 2019

Udall Advances Priorities of New Mexico Farmers and Ranchers, Rural Communities in Bipartisan Agriculture Funding Bill

Bill also includes Udall provisions to continue ban on horse slaughter for human consumption & protect children from ‘lunch shaming’ over school lunch bills

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate Appropriations Committee in unanimously advancing an Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration funding bill that makes critical investments in agriculture, nutrition and research programs to support New Mexico families and rural communities. The bill sets the Fiscal Year 2020 budgets for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and now heads to the full Senate.

"In New Mexico – farming and ranching are a way of life – with deep roots in our culture and heritage. Agriculture is also a key economic engine for our communities, and I was pleased to support this bipartisan bill after ensuring critical resources for our farmers and ranchers and rural communities would be protected,” said Udall, a member of the Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee. “This bill gives support to a range of New Mexico’s farming communities – including acequias, land grants, veterans, beginning farmers, and those that may be socially disadvantaged — ensuring access to critical federal assistance so that farming can continue for future generations. And it provides an increase in funding for agricultural research, to bolster the first-class innovation happening in our state. I'm also very pleased that this bill contains my amendment to continue the ban on commercial horse slaughter for human consumption in the United States and directs USDA to better protect children from the cruel practice of ‘lunch shaming’ over school lunch bills.”

Highlights of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies funding bill include:

Horse Slaughter Defunding Amendment. The bill included Udall’s amendment that prohibits the USDA from using any funds that support horse slaughter for human consumption. 

Lunch Shaming. The bill included Udall’s language that directs USDA to provide guidance to lunch program operators. This guidance would include approaches that protect children from embarrassment, encourage lunch fee communications with parents and guardians instead of children, and encourage schools to provide for efficient enrollment in free and reduced-price meal programs.

Acequias and Land Grants. The bill included Udall’s report language that highlights the provision included in last year’s Farm Bill and directs USDA to provide interim guidance quickly and in a manner that covers irrigation and efficiency infrastructure.

Broadband on Tribal Lands. The bill included a provision that highlights the lack of federal funding for Tribal broadband projects, directs USDA to provide data on the number of proposed projects, and echoes the GAO’s request for a list of regulatory barriers that impede tribes from obtaining funding. 

PFAS. The bill included Udall’s report language to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to use an existing program for dairy indemnity to purchase cattle contaminated by PFAS chemicals.  Udall is fighting for dairy farmers in Clovis, New Mexico, where the USDA is currently paying for dumped milk each month.

Other Highlights:

Agriculture Research: The bill includes $1.4 billion for agriculture research, $121 million more than FY 2019.  Every one dollar invested in agricultural research yields a return of $20 to the economy. The bill also includes $937 million for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an increase of $10 million from FY 2019. 

Conservation: The bill includes $835 million for Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation operations, which funds helps soil and water conservation, environmental restoration, and drought resilience. 

Beginning farmers and ranchers, assistance for socially disadvantaged veteran farmers and ranchers: Provides a total of $33 million, rejecting the administration’s proposal to eliminate these important programs that provide assistance to some of our farmers that continue to make farming a way of life, despite their sometimes limited resources.

Rural Development:

Housing Programs: The bill rejects the administration’s proposal to eliminate the bulk of USDA’s rural housing programs.  All rural housing programs are maintained at the FY 2019 levels, with the exception of Rental Assistance’s $44 million increase to $1.375 billion, and a $5 million increase in housing vouchers to $32 million.

Water and Waste Disposal Programs: The bill maintains Water and Waste direct loans funding at $1.4 billion, while Water and Waste grants are maintained at $549 million.  These programs increase the availability of clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems to small, remote rural communities.

Rural Business Programs:  The bill provides $950 million in Business and Industry loans and rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate business grants, which are increased by $3 million.  These programs promote job creation and income generation in rural areas.

Community Facilities Loans and Grants:  The bill maintains the Community Facilities program at just under $3 billion.  These loans and grants can be used for any essential community facility, including hospitals, health clinics, schools, public buildings, health and safety vehicles and equipment, etc.

Nutrition:

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): The bill includes $6 billion in for WIC programs, which play an important role in ensuring healthy pregnancies and the healthy growth of children in New Mexico and across the country. Sufficient funding is provided to meet expected participation. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The bill includes $69.163 billion for SNAP, which offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.

Child Nutrition Programs:  The bill includes $23.6 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, an increase of $461 million from FY2019, providing meals for an estimated 31 million children.  Programs funded include National School Lunch and School Breakfast, Summer Food Service and Child and adult care food programs to states.  

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR): The bill includes report language encouraging the department to increase the amount and variety of traditional foods included in FDPIR food packages and to increase the amount of foods purchased from American Indian and Alaska Native producers and businesses.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The bill provides $3.15 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, an increase of $80 million from FY 2019. The bill also includes report language addressing the opioid epidemic, including additional lab support for international mail facilities and efforts to support non-addictive products intended to treat chronic pain.