KRWG

Lujan Grisham Establishes First Ever Economic Development Broadband Grant Program

Dec 11, 2018

Credit Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Commentary: As a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) issued the following statement after the Committee moved to advance the Farm Bill to the Floor for consideration.

"I am proud to support this Farm Bill that advances the interests of New Mexican families, farmers, and ranchers for years to come," Rep. Lujan Grisham said. "It was an honor to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect SNAP, support New Mexico Land Grants and Acequias, strengthen conservation and water management programs, promote Tribal sovereignty, and establish the first ever broadband grant program in a Farm Bill.   This broadband program, modeled after legislation I introduced, will help transform the economies of rural areas in New Mexico.  High-speed internet has revolutionized every aspect of the U.S. economy, including education, health care, and agriculture. Expanding broadband access will grow New Mexico's economy, create jobs, boost wages, improve health outcomes, support small business growth, help our students learn, increase crop yields, and so much more.

"Unlike the original House version of the bill, which I voted against, this bill protects SNAP and contains no cuts to the program which will ensure that no New Mexican families lose their benefits. Considering that New Mexico is one of the hungriest states in the nation, this legislation will keep countless New Mexicans from falling into poverty.  Further, it will provide certainty to farmers and ranchers and demonstrate Congress's commitment to supporting rural communities throughout the country.  I urge my colleagues to support and quickly pass this Farm Bill."

In the 2018 Farm Bill, Rep. Lujan Grisham:

1. Secured $500 million in funding for the first ever broadband grant program, the Community Connects Program, which will support constructing broadband infrastructure in areas where it is not economically viable for private companies to install broadband.  This is modeled after Rep. Lujan Grisham's Rural Broadband Expansion Act (H.R. 4308).

2. Ensured that Land Grants-Mercedes and Acequias will finally be eligible for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  These conservation programs will enable Land Grants-Mercedes and Acequias to receive federal funding to improve irrigation, prevent soil erosion, and conduct other land management practices to preserve lands for future generations.  This policy change is modeled after Rep. Lujan Grisham's Land Grants-Mercedes Conservation Program Eligibility Act (H.R. 4688).

3. Increased funding for food purchases for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) by $206 million. These funds help food banks provide necessary assistance to hungry Americans. This is modeled after Rep. Lujan Grisham's Food Bank Assistance Act (H.R. 4020).

4. Incorporated the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3871), legislation she sponsored. Fraudulent organic imports threaten the integrity of the USDA Organic label that so many New Mexicans rely on. This bill provides $5 million in mandatory funding for the National Organic Program to crack down on fraudulent organic imports. Organic farming and ranching is the fastest growing segment of agriculture in New Mexico.

5. Secured $435 million in combined funding over 10 years for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (2501 program) and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).  These programs provide loans and technical assistance to beginning as well as social disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

6. Secured language to enable Tribal 638 forest management demonstration projects.  Tribal 638 contracts promote tribal sovereignty by allowing tribes to operate hospitals, health clinics, and a variety of other services.  This new authority will allow tribal governments to manage federal lands in Indian Country.  This is modeled after the Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act (H.R. 5824) that Rep. Lujan Grisham introduced.

7. Improved and accelerated new and innovative practices to conserve water.  The Farm Bill includes Rep. Lujan Grisham's Accelerating Innovative Conservation Technologies and Practices Act (H.R. 5184), which requires the Secretary of Agriculture to expedite the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) review and approval of new and innovative conservation technologies and practices.  This will help provide farmers and ranchers utilize the most effective conservation practices and it is especially important in dry and arid areas of the country like New Mexico.