Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY2016 Ag, Rural Development, Food Safety Measure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today supported committee passage of an appropriations bill that will support agriculture production, research, and conservation programs that are important to Mississippi.

Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approved the FY2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Bill on a bipartisan 28-2 vote. With its approval, the committee under Cochran’s leadership has approved 11 of the 12 appropriations bills required of Congress annually.

“The purview of this bill includes many important programs that directly influence U.S. agriculture, public health and the quality of life in rural America. The bill adheres to our budget constraints, yet funds federal initiatives to improve agriculture production and research and to support rural economies,” Cochran said.

“As a leader in agriculture production and research, Mississippi has a stake in the federal programs designed to improve production, enhance food safety and provide food to Americans and people around the world. Our universities play an important role in discovering how to maintain U.S. agriculture’s global leadership,” he said.

This Senate measure support U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agriculture, rural communities and cooperative conservation programs. It invests in food and drug safety, and provides essential nutrition assistance for children, families and seniors.

In addition to preventing the closure of Farm Service Agency county offices, the legislation also rejects the President’s budget request to terminate Agriculture Research Service (ARS) extramural research program research, including more than $8.0 million in research conducted at Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and the Jamie Whitten Research Center in Stoneville.

The committee also approved $3.5 million ARS funding to support forest products research, which involves Mississippi State as the lead institution in a collaboration that also includes the University of Maine and Oregon State University.

Other items of interest to Mississippi in the FY2016 Agriculture & Rural Development Appropriations Bill include:

ARS Extramural Research Programs: The committee again rejects the President’s budget proposal to eliminate ARS extramural research programs and continues funding for this research. In Mississippi, this research includes biophonics, Mid-South sustainable crop production systems, crop and animal byproducts integration, avian mycoplasmosis, and erosion and sediment control.
Food Safety and Inspection Service: $1.014 billion, approximately the same as the 2015 enacted level, for food safety and inspection programs. Per the President’s budget request, a $2.8 million increase is provided to continue implementation of the Catfish Inspection Program.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS): Within APHIS funding, $11.5 million is provided for Cotton Pests, $20 million for the national feral hog program, and an additional $600,000 to support aquaculture damage management and research efforts.

Rural Development: Within USDA Rural Development, $3.0 million is provided for the Delta Regional Authority and $3.0 million is provided for a competitive grant program for rural health care services. To support overall rural infrastructure, the bill includes $1.25 billion for rural water and waste program loans, the same as the FY2015 enacted level, $496 million for grants and costs, and $7.5 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans. The bill makes up to $16.5 million available to the circuit rider program that benefits rural water associations in Mississippi.

Food and Drug Administration: Within funding for the FDA, the committee maintains funding, $1.8 million, for the National Center for Natural Product research Center for Excellence at the University of Mississippi for dietary supplemental research. This facility is the only one in the nation that conducts this research.