WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, championed investments and reforms for Wisconsin’s rural and Ag communities in the FY 17 Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) funding legislation. The legislation includes investments to increase agriculture research at Wisconsin high education institutions, protect water quality, and improve rural health. The legislation also reflects Senator Baldwin’s concerns that regulations are threatening Wisconsin’s growing artisan making economy.
“Our agricultural economy is a strong source of growth for Wisconsin communities and we need to do everything we can to support it,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to support investments in Made in Wisconsin agriculture research because it helps grow our economy. I am also pleased that we passed reforms that will help improve water quality and strengthen rural health care.”
Senator Baldwin championed the following investments and provisions on behalf of Wisconsin’s agriculture community in the FY17 Agriculture and FDA legislation:
Investing in Agriculture Research
Every one dollar invested in agricultural research yields a return of $20 to the economy. This legislation provides a total of $2.863 billion for agriculture research to help improve yields and increase sustainability.
The legislation also provides strong funding for additional Made in Wisconsin research that Senator Baldwin fought for, including:
Protecting Water Quality
The legislation provides strong funding for conservation programs that provide technical expertise to assist landowners in taking voluntary steps to protect water quality, assure long-term health of working lands, and improve soil productivity. The Committee provided $759 million for Conservation Technical Assistance, above the FY16 enacted $752,156,000. Recent court cases related to surface and groundwater contamination have caused substantial concern in the agriculture industry, and strong ongoing technical assistance help farmers address these issues through voluntary measures. In 2016, NRCS expects to provide technical assistance to 55,000 landowners.
Improving Rural Health
The legislation includes investments for rural community facilities like hospitals and assisted living facilities. These community facilities are crucial to protecting a high quality of life in rural areas by ensuring rural residents can receive care near their homes instead of traveling – sometimes many miles – to the nearest facility. The bill includes $156,250,000 to the Community Facilities Guaranteed Loans program, an increase of $7,945,000 from FY16 levels. This strong ongoing funding will allow agriculture lenders to continue to provide backing for the facilities that allow rural life to thrive.
Fighting for Artisan Cheese Makers
This legislation includes provisions that express Senator Baldwin’s concerns with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approach to setting food safety protocols for artisan cheese making. The bill calls on the FDA to work with cheesemakers instead of imposing regulations that don’t reflect how artisan cheese is made. This will ensure that food safety standards accommodate cheese making innovation while also keeping consumers safe. Senator Baldwin’s provision also requires that the federal agency must report back to Congress once they complete their study of artisan cheese making.