Vilsack comments on Biden's discretionary funding request

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Farm Forum

The Biden-Harris Administration recently submitted to Congress the President’s priorities for fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending. The funding request invests in the core foundations of our country’s strength and advances key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priorities, including economic development and growth in rural America, maintaining support for American agriculture, rebuilding scientific expertise in our agencies, aiding in an all-of-government approach to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and supporting a strong safety net to address hunger and nutrition insecurity.

“The President’s budget provides the resources to build back better, stronger, and more resilient and equitably than ever before,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This is our moment to solve big challenges by acting boldly—to close the broadband gap facing rural America; to work with farmers, ranchers and producers to transform our nation’s food system and build new markets here and abroad; to protect and manage our nation’s forests and grasslands from catastrophic wildfires; and to ensure Americans have access to healthy and nutritious food. The President’s budget commits to building back better and USDA is at heart of that historic commitment.”

The President’s FY22 discretionary request:

Expands broadband access: Rural Americans are more than 10 times likelier than urban residents to lack access to quality broadband. The discretionary request provides an increase of $65 million over the 2021 enacted level for the Rural e-Connectivity Program “Reconnect,” which provides grants and loans to deploy broadband to unserved areas. The benefits of high-speed internet will serve as an economic equalizer for rural America and the work of installing broadband will create high-paying union jobs with benefits in rural communities. This investment will build on the Coronavirus Relief Provisions provided in 2020 to support broadband infrastructure deployment to areas lacking broadband, especially rural areas.

Invests in critical research and development capacity for farmers: American farmers must be able to leverage new technologies to compete in world markets, all while protecting our soil and water. The discretionary request provides $4 billion, or nearly $680 million above the 2021 enacted level, for USDA’s research, education, and outreach programs. These investments in agricultural research will advance innovation and the application of science-based and data driven agricultural decisions and practices. In addition, the discretionary request provides an increase of $161 million above the 2021 enacted level, to support a multi-agency initiative to integrate science-based tools into conservation planning in order to measure, monitor, report, and verify carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, wildlife stewardship, and other environmental services at the farm level and on Federal lands.

Addresses the growing threat from wildfire: Climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of wildfire seasons, transforming our Nation’s forests at an unprecedented rate, and destroying homes and businesses. The discretionary request provides nearly $1.7 billion for high-priority hazardous fuels and forest resilience projects at a scope and scale to meet the challenge we face, an increase of $476 million over the 2021 enacted level. This funding supports the Administration’s science-based approach to vegetation management at the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to protect watersheds, wildlife habitat, and the wildland-urban interface.

Supports a strong nutrition safety net: The 2022 discretionary request provides $6.7 billion, more than $1 billion above the 2021 enacted level, for critical nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), to help vulnerable families put healthy food on the table and address racial disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. These funding levels will support an anticipated increase in participation in WIC and combat rising food insecurity, which has disproportionately harmed families of color.

These discretionary investments reflect only one element of the President’s broader agenda. In the coming months, the Administration will release a Budget that will build on this discretionary funding request and detail a comprehensive fiscal vision for the Nation that reinvests in America, supports future growth and prosperity, meets U.S. commitments, and does so in a fiscally sustainable way. For more information on the President’s FY22 discretionary funding request, please visit: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/FY-2022-Discretionary-Request.