After seven months of delays, Congress finally reached an agreement on funding levels for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. The bill—known as an “omnibus”—is a package of 12 individual spending bills bundled together, which includes spending for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some highlights include:
The conservation programs have wins and a loss in the 2017 budget. Thanks to the advocacy of Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, as well as Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), the former chair of the Subcommittee, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) suffered no budget cuts. The CSP will help farmers increase efficiency, and improve and protect natural resources by enrolling 10 million acres of working lands this fiscal year. The omnibus also includes an 11 percent cut to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides important technical resources and funding for conservation programs. However, the appropriations committee is aware of the need for conservation programs and the USDA’s Conservation Operations budget includes a $14 million increase.
- On-farm research and food safety outreach
The budget agreement contains several budgetary increases for funding in research programs:
- A nine percent increase in funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program
- A seven percent increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
- A 10 percent increase in funding for National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (also known as “ATTRA”).