Hoeven Highlights Important Funding for Agriculture, Rural Communities in Fiscal Year 2018 Funding Legislation

Bill Includes Hoeven ARC Pilot Program, Strong Rural Infrastructure & Broadband Funding, Opioid Abuse Prevention and Relief Provisions

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Committee, today outlined important agriculture provisions in the Fiscal Year 2018 funding legislation that provide strong support for farmers and ranchers, agricultural research and rural communities. 

“We worked hard to fund important priorities for rural America in this legislation,” said Hoeven. “The bill includes strong support for farmers and ranchers, including our ARC pilot and Water Bank programs. The agreement also prioritizes agriculture research, as well as support for rural communities to build infrastructure from broadband to water systems. This legislation is good for farm country.” 

Supporting Farmers and Ranchers

  • Hoeven ARC County Pilot Program - $5 million to continue Hoeven’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) pilot program to allow for an alternate calculation method for crop payments when NASS data is insufficient.
  • Water Bank – Maintains funding for Hoeven’s Water Bank program, which compensates farmers and landowners for flooded land through 10-year, voluntary conservation agreements.
  • USDA-APHIS Blackbird Crop Damage Prevention – The bill makes available $250,000 in funding to support USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) efforts to reduce blackbird damage to crops in the Northern Great Plains. On average, the annual direct blackbird damage cost to North Dakota’s sunflower growers is almost $11 million.
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) – The agreement continues the prohibition on the closure of FSA county offices and provides an additional $8 million for the hiring of FSA loan officers.
  • Farm Loans – The agreement fully funds expected demand for farm direct and guaranteed and emergency loans.

Agricultural Research

  • Provides an increase of $118.5 million for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), including a $25 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. Research increases include funding for: 
    • Construction and modernization of existing ARS labs 
    • UAS precision agriculture
    • Pulse Crop Health Initiative - $2 million to conduct research on pulse crops’ nutritional benefits, use in addressing global food insecurity, and how to increase pulse crop sustainability. This is the first time PHI is funded since it was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.
    • U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative
    • Research grants and extension activities at Tribal Colleges

Investing in Rural America

  • Rural Broadband – Provides $600 million for a rural broadband pilot grant/loan program targeted to areas that currently lack access to quality broadband service.  
  • Rural Utilities Service (RUS) – Maintains RUS loan levels and provides increases for Water and Wastewater Grants, Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants, Technical Assistance and the Circuit Rider Program  
    • Rural Water and Waste Programs – Includes an additional $500 million for the Water and Waste programs to help address the $3 billion backlog in infrastructure needs in rural America. The funding will support an additional $2.9 billion in loans and $495 million in grants for water infrastructure in rural communities.
    • Rural Water Circuit Rider – Provides $19 million for technical expertise and training to rural communities through state based nonprofit organizations through the Rural Circuit Rider program, which is one of USDA’s most successful public-private partnerships. 
  • Rural Electric Refinancing – Allows Rural Electric Cooperatives to refinance loans, which will benefit ratepayers in rural America.
  • Rural Housing Service (RHS) – Maintains the majority of programs at RHS at FY2017 levels, and provides increases for: the Single Family home loan program, Multi-family Housing Revitalization program, Mutual and Self-help Housing grants, and Rural Housing Assistance grants.
  • Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) – Maintains the majority of programs at RBS at FY 2017 levels, and provides an increase for Rural Business Development Grants, which can be used to provide technical assistance to rural businesses applying for broadband assistance.

Opioid Abuse Prevention & Treatment Efforts

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – The agreement provides an additional $94 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand its efforts to identify and interdict illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, at International Mailing Facilities. Specifically, this funding will allow the FDA to purchase information technology equipment to identify unapproved and counterfeit pharmaceuticals, upgrade laboratory facilities used in this effort, identify and target firms and organizations importing into the United States, and increase criminal investigation resources.
  • USDA, Rural Development –The agreement provides $20 million for Rural Development Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants to help rural communities combat the opioid abuse crisis. Grants can be used to purchase equipment such as transmission facilities, audio equipment, interactive video equipment, and computer hardware, as well as technical assistance for using eligible equipment.