The full U.S. Senate is likely to take up the farm bill this week after members returned from their in-state work week. The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 passed the Senate Agriculture Committee April 26.
Overall, the current version reflects county priorities, with one major exception: There is no mandatory funding for rural development programs.
The legislation authorizes a broad range of programs that are critical to counties. These programs assist counties in the development of rural water and wastewater infrastructure, community facilities, broadband expansion, conservation easements, research, nutrition assistance, renewable energy, local and regional food systems, support for new farmers and business development initiatives.
NACo’s priority in re-authorization is the rural development title, and the current version heading to the Senate floor makes important policy changes that will benefit county governments, such as a new technical assistance component for community facilities, an improved broadband program, streamlining of applications and a new focus on funding the strategic rural development priorities of localities and their larger regions.
The 2008 farm bill included $150 million in mandatory funding for rural water-wastewater infrastructure and two rural business programs, and NACo is working to reinstate funding through an amendment on the Senate floor.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced and discussed an amendment during the Senate Agriculture Committee mark-up that would have directed a portion of funds in excess of the $23 billion the committee has committed to savings to provide mandatory funding for key rural development accounts. NACo and its coalition partners are working to identify additional senators who will commit to working to reinstate mandatory funding for rural development programs.
Action Needed: Please call your senators and urge them to pass the farm bill and support any amendment that will use some of the savings above the $23 billion target to reinstate mandatory funding to rural development programs.