Senate committee unanimously approves agriculture bill

Published 11:05 am Friday, June 23, 2023

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an appropriations bill that would direct federal investments in agricultural programs in Mississippi.

Committee member Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, of Brookhaven, welcomed the FY2024 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which funds USDA agriculture, rural development, conservation, food safety, and nutrition assistance programs. The measure, passed 28-0, is now available for consideration by the full Senate.

“Mississippi has a vested interest in this bill as a rural state that relies on smart and efficient agricultural production and innovation.  Under tighter spending caps, we’ve been able to include funding that will support those priorities and programs that benefit rural communities,” said Hyde-Smith, who also serves on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

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“I look forward to Senate debate on our bill and the next steps required for it to be signed into law,” Hyde-Smith said.

Among the items of interest to Mississippi in the committee-passed Senate measure:

  • $9,050,000 for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to carry out watershed and flood prevention improvements in numerous Mississippi watersheds.
  • $1 million for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to combat cormorants on Mississippi catfish operations, in addition to bill and report language directing the USDAFood Safety and Inspection Service to continue the catfish inspection program.
  • $500,000 for the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to continue its Wild Hog Control Program and $40,000 for APHIS to assist with rabies surveillance in Mississippi.
  • $18 million for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance, testing, management and response activities, $13 million of which is for state departments of agriculture and wildlife to respond to CWD.
  • $10 million for the Veterinary Services Loan Repayment Program and $4 million for the Veterinary Services Grant Program to help alleviate critical shortages of rural food animal veterinarians.
  • $100.9 million for various research activities carried out by the Agricultural Research Service at various Mississippi locations, and in cooperation with Mississippi universities.
  • $25 million for the Rural Development Circuit Rider Program to assist the Mississippi Rural Water Association and other water associations across the country respond to water system failures.
  • $731,000 for the Mississippi Rural Health Association to carry out distance learning and telemedicine activities to improve the rural workforce.
  • $2 million for the Institute of Child Nutrition at the University of Mississippi.
  • Bill language prohibiting USDA from closing any Farm Service Agency county offices.
  • Bill language waiving statutory pay caps to ensure APHIS veterinarians can adequately respond to animal health emergencies, such as the ongoing Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak.
  • Bill language prohibiting the USDA FSIS from permanently relocating or terminating FSIS veterinarians in Mississippi and other southeastern states.