June 24, 2013

Udall Advances Rural New Mexico Priorities in Agriculture Funding Bill

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall applauded the inclusion of important funding for New Mexico's rural communities approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee late last week.

"The rural development and agricultural programs included in this bill are vital to the economy of a large western state like New Mexico," said Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The bill also funds critical nutrition and research programs, that help to fight child hunger and promote development of new approaches to farm production."

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Udall successfully included provisions to support New Mexico by improving the health of low-income mothers, children and the elderly and assisting rural communities with water and wastewater management systems. The bill includes $455 million for grants and loans to assist rural communities with water and wastewater systems, including $66.5 million specifically set aside for Native American Communities and Colonias, and $203 million in funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which provides food and administrative funds to States to supplement the diets of seniors, young children and their mothers.

The report also included language requested by Udall that underscores the need for USDA Rural Development to focus efforts and investment in New Mexico's and the nation's smallest and most rural communities -- frontier communities. And, also at Udall's request, the bill includes strong funding for Agriculture research programs, including $300 million for Cooperative Extension, $243.7 million for state Agricultural Experiment Stations and $316.4 million for Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grants. The senator also worked to highlight the need for funding specific to alfalfa, and include $1.5 million in the bill to support research into the improvement of yields, creation of new uses of alfalfa and forages for bioenergy and the development of new storage and harvest systems.

"While our state faces severe drought and an economy that has not fully recovered from the recession, we must be investing in water and wastewater infrastructure and ensuring that the most vulnerable have access to nutritious food," said Udall. "The committee also made an important step by recognizing that we must focus our efforts to invest in our smallest communities which often lack the personnel and resources to compete for rural development loans and grants and have limited ability to generate revenue."

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich also praised the bill. "This is great news for rural communities across New Mexico," said Heinrich. "A large part of New Mexico's economy depends on the food produced each year by our farmers and ranchers. I am pleased these programs will continue to assist family farmers who are struggling with tough drought conditions this year. The bill also invests in nutrition assistance for those most in need and economic development programs to help our rural communities thrive."

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration FY 2014 Appropriations bill approved $20.93 billion in critical investments in programs that will directly impact public health and safety, including nutrition programs, housing and water programs, agricultural research, conservation programs, and food and drug safety. Some of these include:

  • $7.07 billion in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) funding to provide nutrition education and counseling, supplemental nutritious food and screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services.
  • $268.5 million in funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which makes USDA foods available to the public through state-selected soup kitchens and food pantries.
  • $1.49 billion in Farm Service Agency (FSA) funding to make and guarantee loans to family farmers to purchase farmland and finance agricultural production.
  • $818.4 million in funding for the Natural Resources conservation Service (NRCS) to support producers' voluntary conservation efforts and technology innovation.
  • $2.55 billion and additional user fees for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out its responsibility to assure the safety and efficiency of the nation's drugs, food, and cosmetics.