Alexander: Senate Passes Bill to Support Tennessee Agriculture and Expand Rural Broadband

Posted on August 1, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2018  United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said legislation approved by the Senate will help support Tennessee’s agriculture industry and rural communities.

“The legislation approved by the Senate today is good news for Tennessee’s farmers because it funds the Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development programs and agricultural research at Tennessee universities,” Alexander said. “It also includes $30 million to help expand broadband to rural communities and nearly $2.97 billion for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for ensuring the safety of the food we eat every day.”

“This bill also includes priorities that I’ve been working on as chairman of the Senate’s health committee – it will allow the FDA to identify and intercept illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, at International Mailing Facilities, and will provide additional funding for FDA to more quickly approve drugs and medical devices that help patients. This is a critical step in ensuring the safety of Tennesseans and keeping opioids off the streets.”

The Fiscal Year 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill supports U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agriculture, rural development, and conservation programs that benefit farmers across Tennessee. Tennessee is home to more than 66,000 farms and nearly 11 million acres of farmland. 

The Fiscal Year 2019 Department of the Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies bill provides:

  • $2.97 billion in discretionary funding for the Food and Drug Administration – including $66 million to expand its efforts to fight the opioid crisis by identifying and intercepting illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, at International Mailing Facilities.
  • $3.8 billion for Rural Development -- including $1.25 billion for rural water and waste program loans, 6.94 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans, and $425 million for broadband grants.
  • $2.7 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the land grant and non-land grant universities. This amount includes $405 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is supported by the University of Tennessee.
  • $1.049 billion for food safety and inspection programs that work to ensure safe, healthy food while promoting the safety and productivity of meat and poultry industry.

Today the Senate passed four spending bills including the Fiscal Year 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.  The bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Alexander is the 3rd Ranking Republican Member, on May 24, 2018, and is consistent with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 approved by Congress, and signed by President Trump in February.