Advocacy

NCBA CLUSA Makes Final Case for Co-op Provisions as Farm Bill Nears Reconciliation

Lawmakers likely to serve on a team of negotiators tasked with reconciling the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill received hand-delivered letters from NCBA CLUSA last week urging them to preserve the anchor programs of U.S. investments in domestic co-op development and foreign assistance.

While included in the bipartisan Senate version of the Farm Bill that passed in June, many provisions that benefit co-ops are absent in the House version. To reconcile those and other key differences before the current Farm Bill expires on September 30, the Senate is forgoing its summer recess. Leaders from both chambers’ Agriculture committees have said work on a compromise farm bill will continue throughout August.

The first step—expected sometime this week—is for the Senate to formally vote to go to conference with the House on the Farm Bill and to release the names of its negotiators, or conferees. NCBA CLUSA reached out to all 47 House conferees with a personalized letter.

NCBA CLUSA has requested that committee leaders ensure the final bill includes the following Senate-passed provisions:

  • Title III, Sec. 3301: Food for Progress Act. This section provides mandatory funding that will reduce reliance on monetization to fund the program.
  • Title VI, Sec. 6111. Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) Program. This section requires that cooperative research agreements incorporate research and analysis from the Economic Census. It was reauthorized for an additional five years in both versions of the bill.
  • Title VI, Sec. 6124 Rural Innovation Stronger Economy Grant Program. This section adds the bipartisan Rural Jobs and Investment Act, S. 3034, designed to strategically invest in rural communities.

The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) joined NCBA CLUSA on the final request, which—if included in the reconciled bill—would establish a Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Rural Business–Cooperative Service.

The new program is the direct result of priorities outlined at the Farm Bill Rural Development Innovation Summit, co-hosted in March by RCAP, the New America Public Interest Technology team and NCBA CLUSA.

Citing challenges faced by many rural communities—among them business closures, job losses and lack of capital for new business development—the RISE Program proposes a solution: rural jobs accelerator partnerships that could include co-op development organizations.

Comprised of entrepreneurs, local leaders, investment organizations and training providers, these groups would spur rural economic growth and position their regions to be more competitive. A big piece of the program would allow for multiple investment activities, including the deployment of the high-speed broadband services necessary to support new business and economic growth.

“We believe this legislation provides bipartisan solutions to [rural] problems by delivering flexible federal funding and responsive investments to locally-driven efforts that will create jobs and catalyze economic growth,” the letter states.

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