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Owen Hart

Associate Legislative Director - Agriculture & Rural Affairs

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Advocacy

County Countdown – May 20, 2024

Advocacy

County Countdown – May 7, 2024

ACTION NEEDED:

Urge your members of Congress to support county priorities throughout the development of the 2024 Farm Bill. Farm Bill programs help counties make critical investments in infrastructure, economic development, nutrition and conservation. Preserving and expanding these programs is vital to the continued prosperity of both urban and rural counties, communities and residents. NACo will continue to work with federal partners to ensure a new, long-term Farm Bill reauthorization that includes key county priorities is signed into law in 2024.

BACKGROUND:

Last authorized for five years in 2018 as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334), the 2018 Farm Bill was a major piece of bipartisan legislation that authorized $428.3 billion in funding for a broad range of USDA programs important to counties. With the current legislation set to expire on September 30, 2024, members of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees are continuing to work to draft a new, five-year Farm Bill.

Counties support full funding for all twelve titles of the Farm Bill. The programs authorized through the bill strengthen rural infrastructure, deliver essential public services to county residents, protect our nation’s food supply, increase access to healthy food for low-income populations through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and empower locally-led environmental stewardship and conservation initiatives.

NACo successfully advocated for the inclusion of several key county priorities within the 2018 Farm Bill, including: 

  • Securing the permanent reinstatement of the Undersecretary of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) who oversees the over $200 billion USDA Rural Development portfolio.
  • Establishing the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy Grant Program, which helps counties strengthen the local economy through partnerships with the private sector and institutions of higher education.
  • $150 million for the Water and Wastewater Program: Rural Water and Wastewater Programs help counties finance critical water infrastructure projects and provide access to affordable and clean water to rural communities.
  • $50 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program: The BFRD Program funds education and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers. 
  • Full SNAP Reauthorization: The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized and maintained existing eligibility and work requirements for the SNAP program. The legislation also expanded job training and other SNAP Employment and Training programs originally authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. 
  • $350 million for rural broadband infrastructure and increased the flexibility for USDA broadband loans and grants.

Additionally, members of the U.S. House and Senate have introduced important legislation which is expected to be included in the 2024 Farm Bill. Legislation with particular relevance to counties include: 

  • S.697/H.R. 1450 – Treating Tribes and Counties as Good Neighbors Act: These bills would extend eligibility for the Good Neighbor Authority program to counties, allowing them the ability to reinvest receipts gained from authorized restoration projects. 
  • S. 3309 – Rural Partnership and Prosperity Act of 2023: This bill creates a competitive grant program to provide multiyear, flexible funding for rural development initiatives, creates a grant program to fund technical assistance providers in rural areas and expands the Rural Partners Network, which puts federal staff on the ground in rural communities.
  • S.1867 – Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act: This bill would improve the availability and affordability of childcare in rural communities through grant programs which help bolster the childcare workforce and retain trained childcare professionals in rural areas.  

KEY TALKING POINTS:

  • Urge your members of Congress to support county priorities throughout the development of the 2024 Farm Bill. Programs authorized in the Farm Bill help counties make critical investments in infrastructure, economic development, nutrition and conservation. Preserving these programs is vital to the strength of our local and national economies.
  • The Rural Development title supports counties make critical investments in community development in rural communities, including carrying out regional economic planning, construction and maintenance of essential community facilities, addressing community water and wastewater needs, and deploying broadband infrastructure.