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USDA budget includes more funding for broadband access to rural communities

Friday, March 21, 2014

Article by The Washington Post

The Agriculture Department would lose roughly $938 million under the fiscal 2015 budget proposal, receiving $23.7 billion in discretionary funding.

New initiatives for the agency — which has a diverse mission that includes food safety, agriculture and economic development in rural communities — include a boost in funding for broadband access to rural communities and the creation of three agricultural research institutes dedicated to crop science, advanced bio-based manufacturing and anti-microbial resistance research.

To address the increased risk of wildfires brought on partly by climate change, the USDA is proposing to revamp its approach to suppressing catastrophic fires, to increase efficiencies.

The budget also provides $50 million to strengthen critical habitats for bees and other pollinators, whose declines have led to rising concerns for agriculture production.The money would support research, fund surveys to determine the effects of declining bee populations and strengthen bee habitats.

The USDA is also pressing for reduced crop insurance subsidies for farmers and insurance companies “to more reasonable levels,” changes that would save the government $14 billion over 10 years. The goal is a program that is “less costly to the taxpayer, yet still provides a quality safety net for farmers.” Crop insurance subsidies cost the government $9 billion a year to run, the budget says.

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