WASHINGTON (KTVZ) – Sen. Jeff Merkley announced Monday that he has secured major investments in Oregon agriculture, rural housing, food assistance and rural business priorities through Bill FY23. of the Senate on Agriculture, Rural Development, the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies.
“As I hold a Town Hall each year in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, I hear people from all corners of the state talk about what matters most to them, including making sure our world-class agricultural sector has the support it needs to grow and thrive. said Merkley, who was previously the top Democrat on the subcommittee drafting the bill. “The Farm Bill I championed includes significant investments for family farms, rural housing, food assistance, habitat restoration and wildfire smoke collection. The legislation also prioritizes making Oregon agriculture more resilient to the impacts of climate chaos to protect the livelihoods of our farmers, ranchers and producers. I will continue to push this essential legislation through the appropriations process to benefit farms and families in every corner of the state.
Merkley is the only Oregon congressman from either house since Sen. Mark Hatfield to serve on the appropriations committee, considered 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 investments our nation should make.
Key elements of agricultural finance legislation include:
Water conservation and habitat restoration: The bill includes $175 million, an increase of $75 million, for watershed and flood prevention operations. This funding used to replace open irrigation ditches with pipes is crucial for irrigation districts that need to improve water efficiency and conservation or improve fish and wildlife habitat. This program provides critical funding for ongoing collaborative processes across the state to conserve water and keep Oregon family farms operating while improving habitats for endangered species.
Research on smoke exposure from wine grapes: Unprecedented wildfire seasons in recent years have blanketed much of the state of Oregon in dense and dangerous smoke, which has had a significant impact on the wine grape harvest of Oregon. Oregon. To better understand the challenges facing Oregon grape growers, the bill includes $5 million for research into smoke-affected grapes at Oregon State University (OSU) and other universities in the West Coast.
Rural Energy Saving Program:The bill increases the funding available for energy retrofits from $11.5 million to $13 million. The program, which provides funding to rural utilities and other businesses to increase energy efficiency, was created by Senator Merkley when he was the lead Democrat on the agriculture subcommittee.
Investing in Oregon Agricultural Research and Facilities:The Agricultural Research Service received a $161 million increase in funding for cutting-edge research aimed at improving the productivity, sustainability and health of the nation’s agricultural systems. In addition, Merkley was able to obtain funding for major agricultural research programs in Oregon, including funding for research into the sudden oak death pathogen plaguing the South Coast. Other research funding victories include research on alfalfa, barley, fruit trees, pear, wheat, hops, hemp, apple, shellfish, berries, algae, floriculture, nurseries and rangeland ecology. The bill also includes funding for improved facilities at Corvallis, Burns and Pendleton ARS stations.
West Range Breeding: The bill includes $1.5 million for the Western Rangeland Precision Livestock Center to develop precision-based nutrition strategies for range-based livestock, as well as range-based and livestock management strategies. technology to optimize the health and productivity of livestock based on western rangelands and the rangeland ecosystem. This funding will be split between land-grant universities in Oregon, Montana, and Wisconsin.
Range Precision Livestock Management: The bill includes $3 million to promote economically efficient and environmentally responsible livestock production systems for western rangelands. The bill supports rangeland-based precision livestock nutrition strategies as well as technology-based rangeland and livestock management strategies to optimize the health and productivity of the western rangeland ecosystem.
rural housing: The bill includes $1.487 billion for rent assistance and $50 million for rural housing service vouchers, which will help address the urgent housing crisis facing rural communities in Oregon.
Rural development: The bill includes funding for a number of USDA rural development programs, including rural housing and business development programs. These programs invest billions of dollars in rural America every year. Total funding for the rural development mission area is $4.4 billion, an increase of $401 million from fiscal year 2022.
Summer EBT: Bill continues to fund the Summer EBT program at $50 million. This program has provided much-needed nutrition to Oregon families during the summer months when schools are not in session.
food body:The bill provides a $500,000 increase for food and agricultural service apprenticeships. This program helps improve educational resources for healthy eating, especially for children.
Hemp:The bill provides $4 million for agricultural research services to partner with institutions conducting biotechnology and genomics research to improve hemp genetics research and breeding with new techniques. Hemp has already quickly become one of Oregon’s top cash crops, and many believe it has the potential to generate over $1 billion in sales in Oregon in the coming years with a frame fair and reasonable regulation.
The bill’s next step is merging with a counterpart bill from the United States House of Representatives to be passed by both houses and signed into law.