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Agriculture Victories in FY2018 Omnibus

I'm happy to report that many rural, nutrition, and agriculture programs important to Maine saw funding increases in the FY2018 Omnibus Appropriations legislation that was signed on March 23 and funds the federal government through September 30, 2018. Since President Trump suggested severely cutting or even eliminating funding for many of these programs in his budget proposal, it's very encouraging to see bipartisan support for them in Congress. Here are just a few highlights from the omnibus related to USDA programs that saw increases:

Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) received a $1 million increase, which means $16 million will available to farmers this year.  VAPG provides funding directly to farmers who want to process or market new products.  Keep an eye out for this year’s VAPG application!

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program received $35 million, which is a $8 million increase from the last fiscal year.  Farmers are eligible to receive SARE grants to test new ideas, like a new marketing initiative or a new pest management technique.  Applications typically open in the fall. 

The Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program was funded for the first time ever this year.  This program was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill to support a national service program aimed at increasing agricultural knowledge and promoting nutritious foods in schools.  I have been pushing for this initial federal investment for years, and I am glad the omnibus provided $1 million to get the program up and running at USDA. 

The Food Safety Outreach Program received $7 million, which is a $2 million increase from the last fiscal year.  This program provides critical funding to non-profits, Extension and other partners to conduct food safety training and education for farmers impacted by FSMA.

The National Organic Program (NOP) received a $3 million increase from the last fiscal year, pushing its funding to $12 million.  NOP’s budget has remained stagnant at $9 million since 2014, despite huge growth in the industry.  This funding will help NOP increase its oversight capacity to preserve the integrity of the organic label. 

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