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June 6, 2019

Pingree: $1B agriculture package will benefit local, organic farmers in Maine

Courtesy / Office of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District The House Appropriations Committee has passed an agriculture and rural development spending package, including several provisions that will help Maine farmers, said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District.

The full U.S. House Appropriations Committee this week approved an agriculture and rural development spending bill that reverses proposed cuts to a range of U.S. Department of Agriculture programs — including several tackling climate change and the unnecessary relocation of key research staff.

The bill invests $1 billion "in growing markets such as local and organic agriculture, preserves research staff for the USDA’s science-based programming, helps address climate change, and includes measures to curb food waste," U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District, said in a news release. The spending package must be approved by Congress before it is final.

“This bill also highlights the ways that agriculture can play a role in mitigating climate change. It not only supports USDA’s Climate Hubs, it also encourages the agency to look at carbon markets in agriculture and provides additional support to farmers dealing with the effects of climate change," she said. "These steps are key in order to ensure farmers — who are on the front lines of this crisis — have resources to help curb greenhouse gases.”

Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, is the sponsor of the Agriculture Research Integrity Act of 2019, which would ensure USDA research agencies, including the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, stay in the national Capital region. A proposal by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue would move the agencies to Indiana, Kansas City or North Carolina. Pingree said the move is unnecessary, and would uproot lives of subject-matter experts or remove them from their area of expertise.

Elements of the bill are:

  • $23.4 million for Local Agriculture Market Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill;
  • $400,000 for the first Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison at USDA;
  • $1 million for a new composting and food waste pilot;
  • $18 million for National Organic Program, up from FY19 level of $12 million;
  • Language to stop the NIFA/ERS relocation/reorganization;
  • Language directing USDA to finalize the origin of organic livestock rule;
  • $10 million for Healthy Food Financing Initiative, up from FY19 level of $1 million;
  • $325 billion for Smith-Lever, which funds Cooperative Extension, up from FY19 level of $300 billion;
  • $10 million for the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, which coordinates USDA training and outreach to beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers;
  • Language urging the Secretary to explore carbon markets for agriculture and develop common, science-based methodologies for carbon markets;
  • Language directing USDA to conduct a survey of current programs that aid farmers in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change and identify opportunities to expand this work.

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