Congress funds rural programs in 2018 spending bill

Last week, Congress passed its spending bill for this year, which funds the federal government through Sept. 30, 2018. We were very glad to see that it provides support for rural America.

First, Congress provided healthy funding for conservation. Not only did Congress refrain from cutting farm bill conservation programs for the first time in several years, they also increased funding for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical assistance, to $874 million from last year’s levels. This funding will support the local NRCS offices where farmers and ranchers access technical assistance for their conservation practices.

In addition, Congress rejected proposed cuts to Rural Development programs.

The Value-Added Producer Grant Program, which allows farmers and ranchers to diversify their income by processing their farm and ranch products, was funded at the same level as 2017, at $15 million.

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which provides loan funds and technical assistance to rural entrepreneurs, remains at the funding level provided in the previous farm bill, at $2.8 million, without additional support. You can read more about how RMAP supported a rural Nebraska restaurateur here.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program received from Congress its highest funding level in 30 years, $35 million. We are very encouraged that Congress has shown this support for publicly funded research in sustainable agriculture.

Finally, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program, received $3 million in funding for 2018, which is in addition to the $10 million in funding provided by the farm bill. This program has allowed many farmers and ranchers from around the country, who are new to farm programs, to access U.S. Department of Agriculture support.

All in all, these funding levels show heartening support for rural America. A big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to share with your legislators the importance of these programs to rural communities, and thanks to the legislators who listened. Onward!

Feature photo: The Value-Added Producer Grant Program was funded at $15 million in the 2018 federal spending bill passed last week. Value-Added Producer Grants can be used for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and marketing efforts used to establish value-added businesses, such beauty products including hand salve, pictured. | Photo by Kylie Kai