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Michael Fields Agricultural Institute logo
At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

What the 2018 Federal Spending Bill means for Sustainable Agriculture

On March 23, President Trump signed the federal government spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018. This Omnibus bill (meaning, covering all separate appropriations bills within it) took multiple attempts to be negotiated and renegotiated, and it’s just short of 6 months after the ostensible deadline for passing spending bills. However, it delivered major triumphs for the sustainable agriculture community. Most notably, Congress used some of the additional $2 billion in additional “discretionary” spending that was approved in February to increase funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program from $27.5 to $35 million – the high water mark for this keystone program!

The Omnibus also protected funding for conservation programs that MFAI and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have long fought for. For the first time in years, neither of USDA’s voluntary conservation programs for working lands – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – received cuts. MFAI is also gratified to see funding added for conservation technical assistance, whose diminishing amounts have encumbered use of these programs on the ground in Wisconsin and around the nation.

Another program actively used in Wisconsin, the Value Added Producer Grant program, retained the $15 million that Congress appropriated for it last year. Likewise, the much-loved ATTRA* program ended the year level-funded, despite early proposals to cut it. *ATTRA stands for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas; the ATTRA program provides reliable, research-based information nationwide for the sustainable agriculture community.

Congratulations to NSAC and its many members for these and many other funding gains for FY18. And thank you to Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Mark Pocan for their strong support for SARE Read for more information.