House appropriations bill sets a mixed outlook for rural funding 

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed its agriculture appropriations bill for 2024. The $17.8 billion spending package, which proposes annual funding levels for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, follows the March release of the Biden administration’s budget for the same year.

While the package included spending cuts for multiple USDA programs, House appropriators showed their support for small businesses by holding funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program stable. The program, which provides loans and technical assistance to rural entrepreneurs, is slated to receive $6 million–the same amount allocated for 2023.

“RMAP is an essential tool for small businesses across the country,” said Kalee Olson, policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs. “We’re pleased to see members of the House Appropriations Committee recognize its value.”

While funding for RMAP remained intact, the Center is disappointed that other programs important to rural communities will face spending cuts if the proposed legislation becomes law. The House budget includes $776.892 million for Conservation Technical Assistance — a decrease of $24 million from 2023. CTA funds Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff who help agricultural producers develop and implement conservation plans.

“Many farmers and ranchers are eager to implement practices on their operations that are good for natural resources,” Olson said. “NRCS staff funded by CTA play an essential role in producers’ efforts to improve soil health and water quality.”

Other programs facing spending cuts include Farming Opportunities, Training, and Outreach and the Local Agriculture Market Program. These programs provide funds for training and services that benefit beginning and underserved producers, as well as local and regional food systems.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill is expected next week.