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|U.S. Senate Bill Approves Funding for NH|
|Published Thursday, July 27, 2017|
From Left: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Tom Vilsack, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and Lorraine Merrill, commissioner of the NH Department of Agriculture, at Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. Photo: Jacqueline Susmann/Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture
New Hampshire received funding for several initiatives in a bipartisan funding bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, including important energy and rural development programs.
“I’m pleased these bipartisan bills prioritize New Hampshire needs by making smart investments in our farmers, our infrastructure and our economy,” says Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Below are some of the provisions in the Fiscal Year 2018 Energy & Water and Agriculture Appropriations bills that benefit the Granite State:
Support for NH dairy farmers
- In response to the alarming closure of many NH dairy farms in recent years, the bill includes reforms to the Department of Agriculture’s Margin Protection Program, a federal program intended to be a safety net for farmers facing falling milk prices and rising production costs. The reforms to the program include a reduction in the cost of insurance premiums paid by smaller dairy farms, as well as changes to the payment formula which will allow the program to be more responsive to fluctuating market conditions.
Army Corps of Engineers support for NH infrastructure
- Includes language highlighting the importance of Army Corps of Engineers funding for dredging and infrastructure projects at mid-sized American ports, like the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project. The bills add more than $1 billion to the Trump administration’s budget for investments in Army Corp maintenance and construction projects across the country.
Restores funding for low-income and state energy efficiency programs
- Includes $215 million for the Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to help lower the cost of energy for low-income families by making energy efficiency modifications to their homes. The bill includes $50 million for the State Energy Program (SEP) that provides grants to states for a variety of energy security and energy efficiency initiatives. The bill also includes language directing the Energy Department to issue WAP and SEP awards to states in full no later than 60 days after funds are made available, preventing any undue delay of services to low-income households or state-led energy projects.
Assistance for NH maple syrup producers
- Includes $3 million for the Acer Access and Development Program to help maple syrup producers increase production, strengthen conservation efforts and compete in the global maple syrup economy. In 2014, the United States produced more than 3.2 million gallons of syrup, worth approximately $75-$100 million. Maple sugaring provides income to an estimated 10,000 maple producers across the country.
Restores funding for the Northern Border Regional Commission
- Includes $15 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission—a $5 million increase over the previous year. The commission provides economic development assistance to Coos, Grafton, Carroll and Sullivan counties, rural communities impacted by forest product plant closures, and other economically distressed areas of the Northeast.
Encourages public participation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
- Includes language that encourages FERC to prioritize public engagement and coordination as it reviews and permits energy infrastructure projects, like natural gas pipelines. This appropriations language supports the Public Engagement at FERC Act.
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