With Critical Bustos Provisions Included, Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations Bill Heads to House Floor for Final Passage
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) helped pass an extensive Agriculture and Rural Development funding bill out of the powerful House Appropriations Committee (Committee). This piece of legislation will now head to the House floor for final passage. Congresswoman Bustos successfully included provisions to help fill vacancies at the Peoria Ag Lab, establish a Rural Health Liaison at the Department of Agriculture (USDA), assist beginning farmers obtain loans, bolster water infrastructure investments and expand rural broadband access.
“Folks in rural America work hard – Congress ought to invest in their success and their communities,” said Congresswoman Bustos, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “From bringing down the cost of health care to supporting our growers and producers in a struggling farm economy, one of my top priorities is making sure folks in small towns have the tools they need to succeed. Today’s bill takes meaningful steps forward to make it easier for young farmers to get their businesses off the ground, deliver broadband access to those in small towns and provide support to those making groundbreaking discoveries at the Peoria Ag Lab.”
Throughout her career, Congresswoman Bustos has fought hard to keep the doors open at the Peoria Ag Lab to allow their staff to continue making world class scientific discoveries. That’s why she fought for language directing the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to fill its vacant staff positions with permanent scientists – to aid the Peoria Ag Lab in filling vacant staff positions. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Bustos worked across party lines with Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) to ensure the president’s budget included funding for the Peoria Ag Lab, after it was originally proposed to be eliminated in his first two budgets.
Similarly, Congresswoman Bustos was instrumental in passing a robust Farm Bill to support our agricultural producers when she served as a member of the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee last Congress. One of her key victories in the Farm Bill was establishing a Rural Health Liaison at the USDA to improve delivery of health care to rural America by expanding coordination and funding mechanisms. In today’s legislation, Congresswoman Bustos included language that would direct the USDA to designate a Rural Health Liaison in the Office of the Secretary no later than 90 days after the enactment of this bill. Another key provision Congresswoman Bustos included in the Farm Bill was language that reduced the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) loan eligibility requirements from three years to one or two years if the applicant has other relevant experience or some combination of the two. To provide a boost to beginning farmers, Congresswoman Bustos included language in today’s bill that directs the FSA to enact these statutory changes as soon as possible.
Investing in our region’s infrastructure is also one of Congresswoman Bustos’ top priorities – especially as House Democrats move to advance a major infrastructure package to create good-paying jobs and rebuild our country. In order to lay out her priorities and the needs of Illinoisans, Congresswoman Bustos testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last month. Among those concerns is prioritized funding for rural broadband programs, as 23 million rural Americans struggle to access adequate internet speed. As a result, Congresswoman Bustos requested $550 million for the Re-Connect program, which facilitates federal loans and grants to expand broadband in rural areas. The Committee also gave a 60% increase to Broadband Grants and a 50% increase to Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants. Additionally, Congresswoman Bustos included a provision to increase funding for USDA Water and Sewer Loans and Grants by 31%, or $170 million. This funding goes toward water infrastructure and technical assistance for public water waste treatment utilities that serve towns fewer than 10,000 people.