Butterfield boosts rural support

Washington, D.C. – Congressman G. K. Butterfield successfully spearheaded an effort last night to boost federal support for rural communities and minority farmers by $9 million.

“Rural communities and minority farmers have a great number of unmet needs,” Butterfield said. “The federal government must be a strong partner in addressing those needs.”

During yesterday’s House debate on the fiscal year 2007 Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations bill, Butterfield twice took the floor and saw his two amendments approved. The first added $5 million to a USDA Rural Development low-interest loan program for rural cities and towns, and the second added a total of $4 million in support of minority farmer training and assistance.

Butterfield explained that the USDA Rural Development amendment added funds to the Communities Facilities Account which provides low-interest, long-term loans to small rural towns and cities for municipal building projects and emergency vehicles.

“It keeps modern fire stations, police stations, schools, medical clinics, assisted living facilities, community centers, fire engines and police cars within financial reach for many rural communities across the country,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield said the amendment represents just over a 10% boost in funding, bringing the total for the program to $54 million.

Butterfield said that the second amendment increases funding for the USDA’s Small Farmer Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Program by $4 million. The 26-year-old program is the only USDA program which aims directly at assisting disadvantaged ranchers and farmers. Assistance includes developing individualized farm plans, introducing effective/sound production and marketing practices, and teaching farm accounting and record-keeping procedures.

Butterfield said the additional funding represents an increase of 25% over the original bill number, bringing the total to $10 million. The funding is used through agricultural extension services at 1890 Land Grant Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions. North Carolina A&T State University and Virginia State University are among the schools that deliver these services to minority farmers.

The Senate must also pass its version of the bill, and then any differences between the two versions must be reconciled before a final bill can be voted on by both bodies. Once approved, the final bill would then go before President Bush to be signed into law.

Butterfield said that he is hopeful that the additional funding will hold up through the process.

Butterfield said that the bill includes funding for USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, Food Stamps and other nutrition programs, and conservation. It was approved by the House by a 378 to 46 recorded vote.