Congress passed legislation today that will fund the government through Sept. 2023 and allocate millions of dollars to support key agricultural initiatives.
The bill funds several of the National Corn Growers Association’s (NCGA) top priorities, including research to address aflatoxin, a mycotoxin that has been costly to U.S. corn growers, disaster mitigation efforts and climate change initiatives.
“We are very pleased to see that Congress and the president have prioritized programs that are important to corn growers,” said NCGA Vice President of public policy Brooke S. Appleton. “We are appreciative of our allies who made sure these important initiatives were included in this legislation.”
One of the biggest wins for corn growers was the allocation of $1 million to fund aflatoxin research through NCGA’s Aflatoxin Mitigation Center of Excellence, in conjunction with Texas A&M. Aflatoxin can cost corn growers between $52.1 million to $1.68 billion in annual losses, according to a 2016 study.
The development was praised by state corn grower leaders.
“For years, the Aflatoxin Mitigation Center of Excellence has provided funding to projects focused the mitigation and amelioration of aflatoxin in corn,” said Texas Corn Producers Executive Director David Gibson. “Having Congress recognize the severity of this issue by providing additional funding through the Agricultural Research Service via appropriations is a tremendous step forward in our efforts.”
The funding bill also continues ad hoc programs that aid farmers reeling from adverse weather conditions.
It includes $3.74 billion to extend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Relief Program to assist producers who suffered losses due to natural disasters in 2022, including drought.
Also included in the package was an agreement between House and Senate leaders on the Growing Climate Solutions Act and the SUSTAINS Act. The Growing Climate Solutions Act directs USDA to establish a program to register entities that provide technical assistance and verification for farmers, ranchers and foresters who participate in voluntary carbon markets with the goal of providing information and confidence to producers.
The SUSTAINS Act would allow corporations and other private entities to contribute funding for conservation projects and authorizes USDA to match the donations.
The new law also includes two important pesticide provisions. It reauthorizes the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2022, which includes an increase in registration and maintenance fees to support a more predictable regulatory process and provides important resources for farmworker safety and health care provider training, in addition to other services that advance the safe and effective use of pesticides. Additionally, it requires EPA to comply with numerous registration process improvements to access additional funding levels and requires manufacturers to phase-in bilingual labels on pesticides products over the next 8 years.
The legislation extends the deadline for EPA to complete registration review decisions.
EPA is facing a significant backlog of pesticide registrations due to a variety of factors over the past several years, which has potential implications for continued access to numerous crop protection tools. The agency will be allowed to continue its registration review work through October 1, 2026, as a result of this extension.
President Biden is expected to sign the legislation by December 23.