Panel Also Approves Third Bill with Hyde-Smith Provision to Protect Broadband Funds for Poor & Rural Areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today supported advancing three FY2020 appropriations bills that would help Mississippi agricultural, transportation, and rural broadband efforts.

With Senate Appropriations Committee approval, the full Senate can now consider the FY2020 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Bill, the FY2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, and the FY2020 Financial Services, General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Bill.

“Mississippi as a rural state benefits from federal investments in improving agricultural production and rural development,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Each of the bills approved by the committee would influence many programs in Mississippi that can help communities improve the quality of life in our state.”

Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, secured support for a variety of initiatives carried out in Mississippi, including funding to focus more research on chronic wasting disease, cogongrass control, aquaculture, forest products, and water resources in the Mississippi Delta.  She also protected catfish inspection responsibilities for the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service.

Within both the agriculture and transportation measures, Hyde-Smith supported federal support to advance the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to promote precision agriculture and greater integration of UAS in the national airspaces.  These efforts are led by Mississippi State University and other universities.

The FSGG bill includes a Hyde-Smith provision to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from cutting Universal Service Fund payments to wireless providers who provide broadband access in poor and rural areas.

The following are among the items championed by Hyde-Smith that are of interest to Mississippi:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration

  • Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) – $5.0 million increase for CWD detection, enhanced education, and response, and language directing the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to allocate funds directly to state departments of wildlife and state departments of agriculture with priority given to states that have experienced a recent incidences of CWD. (Hyde-Smith introduced related CWD legislation.)
  • Cogongrass Management and Control – $1.0 million increase for cogongrass management and control, including language directing APHIS to collaborate with state departments of agriculture and forestry commissions in states considered epicenters of cogongrass infestations.  Mississippi is among states experiencing problems with this invasive weed.
  • Wildlife Damage Management – $1.38 million increase for wildlife damage management, with language regarding the development of methods to assist producers combatting the persistent threat and economic hardship caused by cormorants, pelicans, and other birds.
  • Feral Swine – Maintains FY2019 enacted funding levels for the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program to increased feral swine surveillance. 
  • Catfish Inspections – Continues language directing the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to continue the catfish inspection program and to ensure foreign imports meet the U.S. food safety standards.
  • Catfish Production and Bird Predation – Farm Service Agency report language directing USDA to modify its regulations to make farm-raised fish producers eligible for death losses under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish. Program (ELAP), and to deem bird predation and disease be deemed eligible loss conditions.
  • APHIS Wildlife Services National Training Academy (NTA) – $2.0 million to continue support for the NTA, housed at Mississippi State University.
  • Agriculture Research Service – Increased funding for the Center for Pollinator Health at the ARS laboratory at Stoneville ($2.0 million): Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer sustainable water research ($1.0 million); UAS precision agriculture ($3.0 million); high performance computing ($3.0), and other research on poultry, cotton ginning, and agriculture genomics.  Level funding is provided to continue extramural research projects involving universities and colleges in Mississippi.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

  • Highway Trust Fund – $47 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for the Federal-aid Highways Program.  It provides an additional $2.7 billion for highway infrastructure programs, with $1.2 billion in priority funding for states with high rates of deficient bridges.
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems – $24 million for UAS research, of which $12 million would be directed to the FAA UAS Center of Excellence led by Mississippi State University. 
  • Aviation Workforce Development Programs – $5.0 million to address the pilot and aviation technician shortage affecting the commercial aviation industry, which would benefit aviation programs at Delta State University and Hinds Community College.
  • FAA Contract Towers – $170 million to fully fund FAA Contract Towers program, which affects facilities at the Golden Triangle Regional, Greenville Municipal, Hawkins Field (Jackson), Meridian/Key Field, Olive Branch, Stennis International Airport, Tupelo Regional airports.
  • Essential Air Service (EAS) – $162 million for EAS program to provide subsidies to air carriers serving small airports.  This will benefit four Mississippi airports:  Greenville, Hattiesburg/Laurel, Meridian, and Tupelo.
  • Small Community Air Service Development Program – $10 million to help small communities address air service and airfare issues.  Mississippi rural airports have been recipients of these awards.
  • Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grants – $225 million for state and local railroad infrastructure projects.  This program has benefited efforts to restore passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast. 

Financial Services and General Government

  • Rural Wireless Broadband – Includes provisions to protect Federal Communications Commission programs that provide wireless broadband access in poor and rural areas.  This benefits Mississippi’s effort to expand telehealth services, education programs, precision agriculture, and weather monitoring.
  • Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission – Includes language included to prioritize resources to combat robocalls and scams.  The language directs full implementation of anti-spoofing technology, as well as education and outreach efforts to assist consumers in stopping and avoiding scam and unwanted calls.
  • Community Development Financial Institutions – Maintains funding for resources designed to foster investments in affordable housing, small businesses, and community development within underserved communities.  Includes language is included to ensure the unique conditions, challenges, and scale of non-metropolitan and rural areas are considered and funding is used for projects that serve populations living in persistent poverty counties, which especially benefits Mississippi’s rural communities. 
  • Pro-Life Provisions – Maintains provisions prohibiting the expenditure of funds for abortions under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and for funds used by the District of Columbia. 
  • Election Security Grants to States – $250 million for the Election Assistance Commission for grants to states for the improvement of federal elections, including efforts that enhance election technology and security.  This funding is offset through reductions elsewhere in the bill.