OPINION  months of delay the U.S. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee revised its fiscal-year 2021 Agriculture Appropriations bill to advance funding for food and agricultural programs. The House bill provides a total of $23.98 billion in discretionary funding, a modest increase of 2 percent or $487 million more than the fiscal-year-2020 enacted level.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition commends appropriators for comprehensive funding of programs at levels that meet or exceed the priorities of the sustainable-agriculture community for fiscal-year 2021, and for avoiding harmful changes in mandatory program spending.

During a time dominated by sobering headlines about agriculture, hunger and the pandemic, earlier this past week farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations received some good news for once. The committee has delivered on the kind of strategic investments for which the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and our members have been advocating for and for which farmers have been clamoring.

While the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is generally pleased by the distribution of funding, one significant disappointment in this bill is the slow rate of increase in discretionary funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Funding for that program increased by $2 million to reach a total of $39 million, but still falls $11 million short of the coalition’s $50 million request for fiscal-year 2021. It’s the nation’s only farmer-driven research program, and has been a center of innovation in research and agriculture for more than 30 years. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition will continue to advocate for that critical program with our Congressional allies.

Funding levels in the fiscal-year 2021 House Agriculture appropriations bill for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition priority programs are listed.

  • Farming Opportunity Training and Outreach Program – $5 million assumed to be split evenly between the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers, Section 2501; and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
  • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program – $39 million
  • Food Safety Outreach Program – $10 million
  • Local Agriculture Market Program – $20 million split between the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, receiving $8 million; and the Value Added Producer Grant Program, receiving $12 million

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition members are also pleased that provisions from the Agriculture Resilience Act were included in the report that accompanies the House Agriculture Appropriations bill, including establishing a Soil Health and Greenhouse Gas Subcommittee under the National Agriculture Research, Education, Extension and Economics Advisory Board, appropriating additional funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Climate Hubs, and directing the USDA-Economic Research Service to conduct studies regarding the benefits of conservation and soil-health practices as well as the long-term economic impacts of integrating livestock into cover-cropping systems.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition commends House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee members for their continued commitment to understanding the impacts of the relocation of Economic Research Service as well as the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and to the restoration of the capacity of both organizations.

Wes King is the senior policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources and rural communities. Visit sustainableagriculture.net for more information.