Senate Passes Agriculture, Rural Development & Nutrition Bill-Cochran Highlights Mississippi Funding

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today voted for Senate passage of an appropriations bill that provides funding to support agriculture, rural development and child nutrition in Mississippi.

The FY2010 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Bill (HR.2997) was approved on an 80-17 vote. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Cochran will now serve on a joint conference committee to reconcile differences in the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill.

“I look forward to the conference negotiations on this measure and the opportunity to move this bill forward,” said Cochran, who is also the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“This measure will affect every region of Mississippi. It will support ongoing agriculture research at our universities to advance production and crop usage,” he said. “The USDA’s farm credit, rural development, infant nutrition and school lunch programs, and their components throughout Mississippi, are all dependent on this legislation.”

The following are highlights of funding for Mississippi in the measure:

· Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center, Stoneville — $4.0 million in USDA Agriculture Research Service funds to continue repairs and renovations to this ARS facility, which was built in 1965

· National Center for Natural Products Research, University of Mississippi — $3.49 million for Phase II construction, and $1.6 million in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) funds to support dietary supplements research

· Alcorn State University — $1.5 million in USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) funds for a facility to support research on applying advanced technologies to environmental and agriculture challenges

· Mississippi Valley State University — $1.0 million in USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds to support curriculum development, university research, education and outreach programs

· University Center for Biomass-Based Energy, Mississippi State University — $839,000 in NIFA funding to support development of a plant-based gasification process to produce liquid fuel, a program that also involves the Oklahoma State University at Stillwater

· Genomics for Southern Crop Stress and Disease, MSU — $797,000 in NIFA funding to continue the study of crop genomics to improve agriculture production

Of consequence to Mississippi, the measure provides $1.79 billion for the Farm Service Agency, including $67 million in new funding to modernize FSA computer systems nationwide to improve the delivery of commodity and disaster payments to producers.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, which conducts soil, water and natural resources projects in Mississippi, is funded at $1.0 billion nationally in the Senate measure.

Overall, the legislation includes $86 billion for USDA Domestic Food Programs, including $7.52 billion for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, and $16.8 billion for the Child Nutrition Program that supports school breakfast and lunch programs.

Finally, the bill provides more than $3.0 billion for the USDA Rural Development Programs, including $1.88 billion for the Rural Housing Service and $256.8 million for the Rural Business Cooperative Service. To address credit availability in rural areas, the measure increases agriculture credit loan levels (21 percent), as well as the USDA Rural Development single-family housing loan (80 percent) and rental assistance (8 percent) programs.

Cochran Presser