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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Champions Investments in Made in Wisconsin Agriculture Research, Rural Water Quality and Health

Baldwin also fights for new and beginning farmers and Wisconsin artisan cheese makers

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.

  • Agricultural Research Service:  For the Agricultural Research Service, the bill includes $1.178 billion, which is $34 million more than fiscal year 2016 and $17 million more than the budget request.  Additionally, the bill includes $64.3 million for Agricultural Research Service buildings and facilities.
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture:  For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the bill includes $1.364 billion, which is $38 million more than fiscal year 2016.  The bill includes $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is $25 million more than fiscal year 2016 and fully funds the budget request.  Additionally, the bill includes increases for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, and includes $2.5 million for the Food and Agriculture Resilience Program for Military Veterans (FARM-VETS).

The legislation also provides strong funding for additional Made in Wisconsin research that Senator Baldwin fought for, including:

  • Cover Crop research at the Agriculture Research Service: The bill provides $750,000 for Cover Crops Research and Outreach to provide research-based decision tools to help farmers select cover crops that are practical and economical for their farm. Cover crops can help improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, improve soil health, and provide additional income to farmers.  This legislation will support the Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems at UW Madison as well as the USDA ARS Dairy Forage Research Lab, also based at UW Madison.  This will be useful to conventional farmers as well as organic farms and especially dairy farms. This research will provide science-based information for farmers to help them decide what cover crop is a good fit for their farm.
  • Seeds and breeds: Provides an increase of $25 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a key funding stream for UW Madison researchers.  This funding allows researchers to develop plant varieties and animal breeds that are regionally adapted to maximize yield and productivity.  
  • Corn phenotyping: Supports the next generation of research into the corn plant, to enhance our understanding of what makes the plant thrive across different climates.  Provides $1.25 million in new funding for this effort, to further research investments at UW Madison.
  • Undergraduate research at non-land grant Colleges of Agriculture: The bill provides $5 million for Capacity Building Grants for Non-Land-Grant Colleges of Agriculture.  This program helps train undergrads in ag research to develop the next generation of agribusiness employees, soil and crop experts—helping to meet workforce needs now and into the future.  UW River Falls, Platteville, and Stevens Point benefit from this program.
  • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education: The Committee provided $27 million for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, an increase of $2.3 million from FY16. This program helps new and beginning farmers, as well as farmers who are transitioning from conventional farming to growing produce or organic food, which is a growing sector of the Wisconsin agriculture economy.

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.