Ag group likes House bill, but worries about tight time frame
A U.S. House appropriations bill would be good for agriculture, including sustainable ag, but the limited amount of time to gain needed broader support is worrisome, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says.
The fiscal year 2020 minibus appropriation bill passed by the House contains spending increases for sustainable ag research, food safety, local and regional food systems and outreach and training for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, the coalition said.
Among other things, an additional $5 million for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and an additional $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network were included.
The additional funding would affect the new fiscal year, beginning Sept. 30
But the proposal still must be cleared by the Senate and Trump administration, and — with time to reach an agreement quickly running out — it's unclear when and even if that will happen, the coalition said.
Without an agreement, sequestration, or automatic across-the board reduction to discretionary programs, would occur. Many of the programs susceptible to cuts "are critical to sustainable food and farming systems," the coalition said.
The organization also praised the bill for including language to block the Trump administration's plans to relocate the USDA's Economic Research Agency and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from their historic home in Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area.
Advocates say the move would bring in fresh ideas and potentially cut expenses.
Opponents said the move would result in many veteran employees quitting their job rather than moving to Kansas City, hurting the quality of ag research.