Legislation Includes Provisions to Strengthen Kansas’ Agriculture Community
May 19 2016
WASHINGTON – The full Senate Appropriations Committee today approved U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s (R-Kan.) bill to support farmers and ranchers, encourage rural economic development, and enhance food safety in fiscal year 2017. The legislation, which Sen. Moran authored as Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, directs funding and operations within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The legislation balances continued investment in rural America with fiscal responsibility by reducing federal spending compared to currently enacted levels.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy,” said Sen. Moran. “This bill prioritizes interests crucial to farmers and ranchers in Kansas and across the country by investing in agriculture research, conservation and animal health initiatives. The legislation emphasizes food safety efforts, which will help keep families across the country healthy and maintain consumer confidence in American-produced food. The legislation also increases flood prevention and conservation efforts by addressing watershed project backlogs in Kansas and other states.
Sen. Moran continued, “I’m especially proud of provisions in the bill that incentivize military veterans to explore opportunities in production agriculture. Encouraging our veterans to pursue farming, ranching and other careers in agriculture will strengthen our farm economy while empowering vets to apply their unique skill sets and abilities to agricultural production.”
The bill prioritizes a number of key issues for Kansans, including:
• Agriculture research
Increases support for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), USDA’s premier competitive grant program for basic and applied agriculture research. Studies estimate that every dollar invested in agriculture research returns $20 to the U.S. economy. Research completed at USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) labs and universities in Kansas keep producers on the cutting edge of technology and competitive in a global market.
• Watershed and flood prevention
Supports the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program for the first time since fiscal year 2010. This program protects our rural communities from flooding by providing needed support for watershed projects. Watersheds also protect our natural resources and provide conservation benefits by reducing erosion and increasing sediment retention. Estimates show that in Kansas alone, watershed projects in place today provide $115 million in economic and flood damage reduction benefits.
• Veteran outreach
Includes funding for the Food and Agriculture Resilience Program for Military Veterans (FARM-Vets) program and directs USDA to engage in additional outreach and training for veterans transitioning from military service to careers in agriculture. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s farms are owned and operated by farmers over the age of 65 creating a significant demand new farmers, while at the same time, over 800,000 service members are expected to transition out of the military in the coming years.
• Rural water systems
Provides robust support for the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program and Circuit Rider Program, which are designed to provide technical assistance to rural water systems and prevent pollution of surface and ground water used as the primary source of drinking water by rural residents. Sen. Moran believes the ability for rural communities to provide safe drinking water to its citizens is of utmost importance.
• Food safety initiatives
Supports implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which intends to improve preventive control measures for food production, decrease foodborne illness outbreaks, and better ensure the safety of imported food. Preventing food contamination keeps consumers safe and heathy and helps agriculture stakeholders by instilling confidence in our food systems.
The U.S. Senate now has the opportunity to debate the agriculture bill, along with the other 11 appropriations bill required of Congress annually.