Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two separate bipartisan appropriations bills to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020.
In a resounding rejection to the Administration’s budget request to eliminate cooperative funding at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the FY20 appropriations maintains level funding for USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program at $5.8 million. RCDG is the only domestic program dedicated to the startup, growth and innovation of—and conversion to—cooperative businesses.
The funding bill also provides $12 million for USDA’s Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP), a $2 million increase from FY19. RESP provides 20-year loans to utility providers, including rural electric cooperatives, at zero percent interest to be used for programs that improve the energy efficiency of homes, businesses and schools in rural Americans. Consumers pay back the loan at an interest rate of no more than 5 percent to their utility provider, which ultimately pays back the loan to USDA.
Relatedly, the House also passed the RURAL Act. This bill will protect the tax-exempt status of rural electric cooperatives that use government grants for broadband, disaster recovery and other programs. NCBA CLUSA sent a letter supporting this legislation earlier this year. You can read more about the RURAL Act from America’s Electric Cooperatives.
Cooperative priorities on the international development front saw significant increases in the omnibus funding bills. First, the bill includes $17 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), a $5 million increase from FY19. CDP is a competitive grants program awarded to U.S.-based cooperative organizations to start and grow cooperative businesses that promote economic independence. International cooperative and credit union development programs and projects are implemented by ten U.S. cooperative development organizations, among them NCBA CLUSA. Check out this video for a look at our CDP work in Madagascar.
Finally, the funding bill passed today provides $1.7 billion for USAID’s Food for Peace. This program promotes food security through long-term economic development. NCBA CLUSA participates in this program by helping communities across the globe implement cooperative principles.
The two bills, totaling $1.4 trillion, are expected to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump by the end of this week, averting a federal government shutdown. Current federal funding is set to expire on December 20.
NCBA CLUSA advocated vigorously for funding increases for federal cooperative development programs with the support of our members and cooperative community members throughout 2019. We look forward to monitoring the implementation of these important programs throughout FY 2020.