The House Appropriations Committee should oppose the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill released today, because it sets a dangerous precedent for the nation. In the midst of bipartisan and productive Farm Bill discussions, the House has proposed slashing funding to levels not seen since 2006 – rescinding funding to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and funding for rural electric cooperatives and cutting programs and research designed to support climate-friendly farming, ensure resilience in our food supply, and fend off a national farm crisis. The bill’s proposed cuts target the agencies that that we all rely on to serve farmers, protect our food safety net, invest in rural America, and safeguard our farmland and natural resources.
Turning Back the Clock on Progress
The released text proposes dangerous policy riders that stop crucial rulemaking efforts in their tracks, limit the effectiveness of our public agencies, and threaten public health and the environment.
The bill would roll back progress on fairness in agriculture led by the Biden-Harris Administration and the 117th Congress. Funding cuts and policy riders would gut USDA’s ability to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act and to finalize long-awaited rulemakings that would protect farmers and improve transparency in the highly consolidated meat supply chain. Instead of leveling the playing field for small farmers, the bill would allow global corporations to suck money and resources out of rural communities and undermine the resilience of our food supply. On top of that, the bill would claw back funding set aside for agricultural borrowers who are at risk of losing the farm – placing the burden of budget cuts on the backs of those who are already struggling. It would also reduce funding for USDA’s innovative climate hubs and climate change research.
Conservation and Farm Safety Net
For bedrock loan and conservation programs, the bill’s proposed funding levels are truly unsustainable. For the regional agencies that deliver benefits to farmers of all shapes and sizes, this bill would hollow out USDA offices that are the first line of defense for farmers fighting to survive weather-related disasters. The bill reduces funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which operates popular and successful programs that fund on-farm conservation practices, including transitioning to organic agriculture, cover cropping, and agroforestry, and it eliminates funding for equity initiatives and climate change that are crucial for maximizing the benefits of those conservation programs.
The bill would cut $500 million for REAP – with farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses being turned away from making energy efficiency investments that would result in savings on their energy bills. Just last year, REAP was instrumental in creating and saving enough energy to power over 260,000 homes while creating or saving an estimated 826 jobs. In Church Creek, Maryland, for example, a metal fabrication business utilized REAP to save $11,300 in electrical costs per year. Across the country, REAP is helping drive down energy costs for rural small businesses.
Making matters worse, the bill slashes $3.2 billion for rural electric cooperatives to provide affordable and reliable clean energy to consumers. Not only would this risk increasing energy costs by removing a valuable tool for cooperatives, but this would significantly limit the ability of our co-ops to add an estimated 90,000 new jobs and nearly $50 billion in wind and solar-induced economic development revenues in rural areas. The proposed cuts would be a devastating blow to our rural communities and the economies that they support.
Reject the Draft House Agriculture Appropriations Bill
This proposal comes at a crucial time for farmers, consumers, and rural America, as our communities prepare to navigate increasing upheaval from climate change. Congress must go back to the drawing board on this flawed proposal.