Congress last week sidestepped potentially devastating cuts to the federal programs at the core of domestic and international cooperative development—a bright ending to a budget season fraught with uncertainty.
In passing the $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, lawmakers broadly rejected the Administration’s calls to downsize the federal government, including the elimination of discretionary programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), among them the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program.
In funding consistent with 2017 levels, RCDG will receive $8.8 million this fiscal year to help create and sustain vibrant rural communities and assist socially disadvantaged groups. The allocation indicates continued support by lawmakers to fund the only federal program dedicated to advancing the impact of cooperative businesses nationwide.
The spending deal also allocates $600 million to USDA’s Rural Utility Service to launch a loan-and-grant program for deploying broadband in rural America, funding America’s electric co-ops praised as a “positive step” toward closing the digital divide.
The International Affairs Budget also fared well in the omnibus, netting a near 4 percent increase—particularly notable during a year when the White House proposed slashing the same budget by 32 percent. The international development community was concerned that such drastic cuts would compromise U.S. leadership on foreign assistance.
Specifically, the omnibus calls for a total of $1.7 billion for America’s flagship food aid program, Food for Peace, a significant increase from last year’s $1.4 billion. The Cooperative Development Program (CDP)—also slated for elimination—was funded at $12 million.
The U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, will receive level funding of $1 billion. NCBA CLUSA’s flagship Feed the Future project in Senegal, Yaajeende, reduced malnutrition in children under five by more than a third.
In a challenging political environment, NCBA CLUSA is heartened that the omnibus secures the bedrock of U.S. investments that promote economic growth, support good governance and create more sustainable communities worldwide.
“The preservation of RCDG funding provides the much-needed resources to continue to build sustainable and stable communities through cooperative enterprise,” said Doug O’Brien, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA. “We thank our members, partners and supporters that helped to unify our voice in safeguarding these crucial funds.”
NCBA CLUSA will build on this momentum to ensure that the budget for fiscal year 2019 also ultimately prioritizes federal investments vital to cooperative impact and international development.
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