Senate FY18 Ag Appropriations bill recommends level RCDG funding

Written by Elizabeth Lechleitner/NCBA CLUSA

The Senate’s FY18 Ag Appropriations bill recommends continued funding for programs vital to the economic growth of rural America.The Senate’s FY18 Ag Appropriations bill recommends continued funding for programs vital to the economic growth of rural America.The Senate’s FY18 Ag Appropriations bill recommends continued funding for programs vital to the economic growth of rural America.The Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee last week approved a $145.4 billion fiscal year (FY) 2018 Ag Appropriations Bill last week that—much like the House version—rejects most of the president’s budget proposal, including the elimination of the Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) program.

The bill allocates $20.525 billion in discretionary funding—$352 million below the FY 2017 enacted level, but $4.8 billion above President Trump’s budget request. The bill also maintains the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Rural Development Mission Area and reinstates an Under Secretary of Rural Development.

The RCDG line item is funded at $26.550 million for FY 2018—$300,000 less than NCBA CLUSA’s request of “at least $26.850 million,” but level with FY 2017 funding.

The recommendation indicates continued support by lawmakers to fund the only federal program dedicated to advancing the impact of cooperative businesses nationwide.

“Given the current budget climate, this recommendation is a positive sign for cooperatives and cooperative development centers nationwide,” said Judy Ziewacz, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA. “We look forward to working with lawmakers to provide the federal investment needed to help create and sustain vibrant rural communities.”

According to grant recipients surveyed by the association CooperationWorks!, from 2008-2014, RCDG grants have developed more than 300 cooperative businesses and created or saved upwards of 4,000 cooperative jobs. The grants have also developed more than 350 non-cooperative small businesses and created or saved upwards of 6,000 non-cooperative jobs.

NCBA CLUSA actively monitors federal budget negotiations year around to ensure consistent RCDG funding levels and will continue to track the budget reconciliation process.