July 21, 2017

Van Hollen Fights for Maryland in Agriculture Appropriations Bill

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted to support the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which passed unanimously yesterday in the Committee. It will support American agriculture, conservation, and nutrition programs.

Through his work on the Appropriations Committee and as the first Maryland Senator in nearly 100 years to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Van Hollen was able to work on a bipartisan basis to protect programs that are vital to Maryland at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from draconian cuts proposed by the Trump Administration. FDA is located in Silver Spring, Maryland and is a major employer in the state.

"This legislation funds efforts to strengthen public health, our agriculture community, and improve the quality of life for people in Maryland and across the country," said Senator Van Hollen. "It also sends a strong bipartisan message to President Trump that Congress will not support the draconian cuts he proposed to programs that are vital to protect public health and support small businesses."

Senator Van Hollen worked on a bipartisan basis to ensure that the Appropriations Committee rejected the President's proposed budget for the USDA and FDA. Overall, total FDA funding, including user fee revenues, is $5.2 billion, which is $491 million above this fiscal year. Food safety activities are fully supported, and it includes Senator Van Hollen's language to encourage the continued expansion of FDA facilities near the White Oak campus in Montgomery County, Maryland. The bill also provides $60 million as authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act and includes language supporting pediatric cancer drug approvals - an issue that the Senator has championed for years.

The legislation includes hundreds of millions of dollars for Maryland to invest in critical projects, including:

  • $550.38 million for the Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program, which was eliminated in the President's budget. This program has been used by communities throughout Maryland, particularly communities on the Eastern Shore.
  • Language encouraging USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to designate Community College Centers of Excellence in Agribusiness Workforce Training, which may include colleges like Frederick Community College.The Centers of Excellence will include a limited number of two-year community and technical colleges with a demonstrated capability to provide training and education for agribusiness.
  • $18.5 million for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), which provides federal benefits to Women, Infants, and Children low-income recipients that are used at farmers markets to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. FMNP funds support approximately 380 Maryland farmers and has been essential to the growth of farmers markets in the state. Over the last 10 years, the nutritional at-risk population in Maryland has received $5.6 million in fresh, local produce from this program.
  • $7 million for the Food Safety Outreach Program. Training provided by this program helps Maryland farmers and processors develop the food safety practices critical for ensuring a safe food supply, and helps ease the burden of compliance that small and medium size operations often face.
  • Language supporting the ongoing FDA monitoring of the olive oil market and asking them respond to a 2012 citizen petition requesting a standard of identity for olive oil and olive pomace oil. Maryland is home to a major olive oil company that has been based in Baltimore since 1906.
  • $166.5 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Specialty Crop Pests program and $56 million for the APHIS Tree and Wood Pests program. These funds will help address the threat non-native pests represent to Maryland's forests and valuable specialty crops, which include tree nuts, apples, and peaches. In 2016, Maryland produced 39 million pounds of apples and 2,300 tons of peaches valued in the tens of millions of dollars. The invasive spotted lanternfly threatens these important agricultural products. These funds will help prevent the potential destruction from the lanternfly and other wood boring pests, which is not possible without federal funding.
  • $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides funding to the University of Maryland - College Park. The University uses AFRI funds to pay for agricultural research and extension services that support the state's multi-billion dollar agricultural sector and its rural communities.
  • $2.25 million for Alfalfa Seed and Alfalfa Forage Systems Research.Maryland harvests 35,000 acres of Alfalfa with a value of almost $31 million per year.
  • Strong support for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. For nearly 30 years, the program has been at the forefront of research and extension activities for farming systems based on profitable and environmentally sound practices developed with farmer and business input. In Maryland, it has awarded 107 projects since 1988, totaling over $4.1 million.
  • $10 million in mandatory funds for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers. Since 1990, this program has served as the only farm bill program dedicated to addressing the specific needs of African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Latino family farmers and ranchers. The University of Maryland - Eastern Shore has received more than $1 million in funding for outreach and assistance to African American farmers on the Eastern Shore since 2003.
  • $15 million for the Value-Added Agricultural Product Market Development Grants. The program offers grants to farmers and ranchers developing farm- and food-related businesses that boost farm income and create jobs in rural America. Since 2001, over $6 million has been invested in Maryland's agricultural economy through the program. By supporting local farms, more local money stays in Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.
  • $768.8 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Technical Assistance programs. As part of this program, field staff work one-on-one with farmers in Maryland and across the country to develop and implement conservation plans that address how farmers can best conserve resources on their farms.
  • $2.75 million for the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas program, which provides practical, cutting edge information to millions of farmers, livestock operations, extension agents, conservation professionals, and others. This program helps the Maryland Department of Agriculture assist farmers throughout the state to improve record keeping.
  • $1.53 billion for the Farm Service Agency's Direct Farm Operating Loans Program and $1.5 billion for Direct Farm Operating Loans. Maryland farmers use these funds to reorganize their farms to improve profitability, purchase livestock and farm equipment, finance operating expenses, land and water development, and conservation efforts.
  • Language directing the FDA to assist small and very small farms with compliance and exemptions under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Based on concerns from small, family farms in Maryland, Senator Van Hollen has encouraged FDA to ensure that FSMA regulations for small farms are appropriately tailored to their operations.