WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, helped advance out of Committee a comprehensive agriculture and rural development funding bill that would bring significant federal investments to communities in Northwest and Central Illinois.
“Investing in the future of rural communities is vital to Illinois and our nation,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “The bill we advanced today will improve water and broadband infrastructure, feed hungry families and invest in agricultural research programs. With these priorities, we’ll build on our work to bring rural infrastructure into the 21st century and expand opportunities in the Heartland for generations to come.”
Congresswoman Bustos secured the following priorities to support rural communities:
- $8.5 million for Rural Water Infrastructure: $8.5 million in funding from the Rural Utilities Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for competitive grants to improve water and wastewater systems in small communities.
- Expansion of Rural Cellular Service: This bill includes language directing the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service to examine ways to expand cellular service to unserved rural areas.
- Re-Establishment of the Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative (DALCI): Re-establishes the Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to protect a unique landscape in Northwest Illinois.
- Extension of the Swine Health Improvement Program: Lays the groundwork for the USDA to make the Swine Health Improvement Program permanent within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). A pilot of this program was funded in 2021 and has been overwhelmingly endorsed by a majority of swine producers. The outbreak of African Swine Fever on Hispaniola has added new urgency to extend the program.
- A survey of Breastfeeding Support in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): This bill includes language directing the USDA to conduct a survey of state WIC agencies to assess the accessibility of free and low-cost breastfeeding supplies.
Additional Bustos priorities included were:
- $560 Million to Expand Rural Broadband: More than $560 million for the expansion of broadband service to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and healthcare services. This includes $450 million for the ReConnect program. This is in addition to the $2 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- $1.5 Billion for Critical Infrastructure: Responsible investments in infrastructure to help rural areas of the country access basic utilities, including $1.5 billion for rural water and waste program loans, and more than $680 million in water and waste grants for clean and reliable drinking water systems and sanitary waste disposal systems. An additional $7.9 billion in potential loans is provided for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans.
- $30 Billion for Rural Housing Loans and Rental Assistance: $30 billion in potential loans for the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program. The bill also includes $1.5 billion in direct single family housing loans, which provide home loan assistance to low-income rural families as well as, more than $1.5 billion for rental assistance and rental vouchers for affordable rental housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities.
- $6 Billion for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program: $6 billion in discretionary funding for WIC and access to more fruits and vegetables in the WIC Food Package. In FY 2023, WIC will serve an estimated 6.2 million women, infants and children.
- $26.8 Billion for Child Nutrition Programs: $28.6 billion in funding for child nutrition programs, which will support roughly 5.6 billion school lunches and snacks. The bill also provides $50 million for the Summer EBT program, $40 million for school kitchen equipment grants, $10 million for school breakfast expansion grants and $12 million for farm-to-school grants.
- $111 Billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): $111.180 billion for SNAP, including $3 billion for the SNAP reserve fund. The SNAP program serves more than 43.5 million people.
- $100 Million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): $100 million to support the storage and distribution of USDA food distributed through the TEFAP network of emergency feeding organizations. This is the highest-ever level for the TEFAP program.
- $3.645 Billion for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): $3.645 billion in discretionary funding for the Food and Drug Administration, an increase of $341 million above the FY 2022 enacted level. This includes $64 million in targeted funding for the opioid crisis, medical supply chain surveillance, drug safety surveillance and oversight. It also includes a $77 million increase to better avoid or more quickly respond to food outbreaks, improve the animal food inspection system and address heavy metals in baby food.
- $3.6 Billion for Agricultural Research: Nearly $3.6 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It also provides the highest-ever funding level for USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.