Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced new and increased funding for agricultural and rural development programs that are vital to Oregonians, including agriculture research, conservation and support and a massive new investment in rural broadband — a top issue for Oregonians who have come out to Merkley’s town halls.
“Oregon’s and America’s farmers and ranchers have faced a lot this year, from extreme weather to threats of budget cuts to critical agricultural programs,” Merkley said. “I’m glad Senator Hoeven and I could reach across the aisle and work together to help keep family farms and ranches going and help rural communities build the foundation for a promising future.
“I’m particularly pleased that in addition to important traditional agriculture program, this bill also invests in rural America’s future with a massive, tenfold increase in rural broadband, and a half-billion-dollar additional investment in rural water and wastewater systems.”
Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making. In the 2018 spending bill, he won investments in programs that are top priority for Oregonians.
Rural Broadband: The program received $667 million in budget authority for grants and loans to expand broadband in rural areas without sufficient access or service. This is a $600 million dollar increase, a tenfold increase, over last fiscal year’s levels. It is anticipated that the funding level in the spending bill will leverage more than $1.8 billion in grants and loans.
Rural Energy Savings Program: The program, which Merkley created, provides low interest loans for energy efficiency retrofits, and now those loans will be available to replace old manufactured housing with energy efficient manufactured housing using low interest loans from program.
Rural Development: Funding for the programs increased by over $1.1 billion from last fiscal year, with millions of dollars of new investments in rural broadband, housing programs, and business development programs—including a $10 million increase for rural business development grants.
Rural Water and Waste Disposal Systems: The program received $500 million in additional budget authority to support loans and grants for clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems in rural communities. With this additional funding, this program will support well over $3 billion in loans and grants.
Natural Resources Conservation Service: The agency received $874 million, which provides increased funding for agriculture conservation programs used by Oregon farmers and ranchers.
Sustainable Agriculture Research: The program funding was increased to $35 million for grants that are widely sought after in Oregon, promoting research and education on sustainable agriculture practices and ensure the economic viability of the agricultural industry in the U.S. for future generations.
Organic Farming: Organic farming programs received increased funding to a total $17 million to establish standards for organic certification and award grants that fund projects to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crops, and assist those who are adopting organic practices.
Rural Electric Loans: The bill includes language that provides authority for new low-interest USDA loans for renewable energy projects.