The legislation supports vital nutrition and agriculture programs, includes substantial investments for military installations and veterans in New Mexico, funds clean energy, housing, water, & transportation infrastructure
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, welcomed the Senate’s overwhelming bipartisan passage, 82 to 15, of the first package of the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Appropriations bills. The package included the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration bill, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill, and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill.
These strong bipartisan bills build on the progress made in appropriations packages enacted in recent years to deliver essential resources for the VA, military construction, the FDA, and our nation’s federal agriculture, transportation, and housing programs.
“From supporting American farmers and promoting the health and well-being of our children, to strengthening national security and investing in our veterans, this bill delivers,” said Heinrich, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. “We can do good work for the American people when we push partisan politics aside and focus on real solutions for the real challenges facing families today. That’s what the Senate continues to do. House Republicans need to stop wasting time on extreme proposals designed to create chaos and join us in passing serious, bipartisan funding bills that will grow our economy and put families in New Mexico and across the country first.”
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Heinrich authored and led bipartisan negotiations of the bill. The bill was previously voted out of Committee in a unanimous 28-0 vote on June 22. Highlights include:
Nutrition: The bill delivers critical funding to ensure women, infants, and children can get the nutrition they need, and it protects vital nutrition assistance programs for families across the country with tight budgets.
Economic Development: Heinrich secured a $3 million investment in the Southwest Border Regional Commission (SBRC), which supports economic and community development in southern New Mexico. The Commission is one of seven authorized federal regional commissions and authorities. In the previous two annual federal spending bills, Heinrich successfully secured the first ever congressional investments to finally allow the SBRC to jump-start and expand its operations.
Conservation: Heinrich secured provisions directing the USDA to place greater focus and resources on drought resilience and other western water issues. Additionally, it provides $994 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and protects funding for operations and Conservation Technical Assistance, which supports voluntary conservation practices on private land. This funding helps farmers and producers improve soil health, conserve water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, conserve energy, improve woodland, pasture, and rangeland conditions, and reduce natural hazard risks. The bill directs NRCS to include a greater focus on drought resilience and other western water issues, while maintaining support for important water quality efforts in the Midwestern and Eastern United States.
Tribal Communities: Heinrich championed funding for a pilot Bison Production and Marketing Grant Program within the Agriculture Marketing Service to expand markets for private and Tribal bison producers. Heinrich also championed funding for federal inspection of Tribal bison processing, which supports indigenous food sovereignty by enabling Tribes to include bison raised on their own lands in federal nutrition programs like school meals.
Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production: The bill includes $8.5 million for the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP), which provides technical assistance to urban and innovative producers, increases access to grants for small-scale farmers, and invests in composting and food waste initiatives. Albuquerque hosts one of 17 Farm Service Agency Urban Agriculture Service Centers nationwide, and the OUAIP has made significant investments in New Mexico to strengthen local food hubs and develop new market opportunities for small farms throughout the state.
Food and Drug Administration: The bill includes substantial investments in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including supporting the FDA’s authority to approve drugs based on safety and efficacy. This bill also includes funding to support the FDA’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and builds on support for Alzheimer’s Disease with continued access to the accelerated approval pathway and ensuring it remains available to expedite access to drugs and treatments for Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Specifically, the bill provides a $20 million increase in funding for the FDA to carry out its critical mission to keep families healthy and safe. Additionally, it provides an additional $7 million to conduct oversight of cosmetics for the first time ever, $3.75 million to strengthen FDA’s food safety programs, $3.75 million to address device shortages and supply chain issues, $3 million to advance neuroscience research, and $2.5 million for ALS research.
Housing and Rural Development: In rural communities, including in New Mexico, we are seeing home prices and rents that we have never experienced. This bill protects the housing programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ensures that Americans in rural communities who qualify will receive the housing assistance they need. Specifically, the bill includes $1.6 billion for rental assistance to ensure rural Americans have access to safe and affordable housing. It would also decouple rental assistance from Multifamily Direct Loans, which will prevent thousands of low-income families from losing rental assistance. This bill also fully funds critical Rural Development programs supporting broadband access, water and wastewater systems, and rural business development.
Agriculture Research: Agricultural research plays a vital role in supporting farmers and ranchers, particularly as they continue to respond to higher supply costs, a constrained labor market, and a changing climate. This bill includes $1.792 billion—a $48.6 million increase—for the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) premiere in-house research agency, to conduct research relating to important topics such as soil health and drought resilience, pest and disease resistance, value-added products, and agricultural innovation. This includes specific funding for important agriculture research in agrivoltaics, sustainable specialty crops, wind erosion, and precision rangeland management, among other topics.
The bill includes significant funding for 18 local projects across New Mexico, which Heinrich helped to secure. Find a list of those projects here.
The bill was previously voted out of Committee in a unanimous 28-0 vote on June 22. Highlights include:
Access to Care for Rural and Tribal Veterans: The bill includes report language Heinrich authored to prevent the VA from closing Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). This will ensure that veterans have access to care at VA facilities and effectively protect key facilities in rural and Tribal areas from being closed through the quadrennial market assessments process conducted by the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission.
Transportation for Rural Veterans: The bill increases funding for the Highly Rural Transportation Grants (HRTG) program to $15 million, an increase of $5 million. This program helps veterans in rural areas travel to VA or VA-authorized health care facilities. The increase in funding will directly benefit New Mexico veterans who utilize HRTGs in Colfax, Union, Mora, Harding, San Miguel, Quay, Guadalupe, Cibola, Socorro, Torrance, Lincoln, De Baca, Catron, Sierra, and Hidalgo Counties through the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services.
Rural Health for Veterans: The bill increases funding for an existing home-based primary care program serving veterans located in rural and highly rural areas by increasing relevant research, innovation, and dissemination capabilities. Many veterans in New Mexico live in rural and tribal areas, and these veterans often must travel to major medical centers in urban areas for medical care, sometimes requiring multiple-day trips. Native American veterans often live in rural areas and are disproportionally affected by the distance they must travel for medical care. The bill delivers $347.5 million in funding veteran rural home-based care, $10 million more than the FY 2023 enacted level and the President's budget request.
Homeless Veterans Assistance: The bill increases funding to expand Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, and the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program. This funding will build on the success of FY23 by providing an 8% increase of funding for a total of $3.1 billion. These programs support communities across the nation providing critical services and housing for veterans and their families. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased substantially nationwide since 2009, a 50% reduction by some estimates. As of January 2020, New Mexico had an estimated 3,333 veterans experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total 252 were Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness.
State Extended Care Facilities: The bill provides $154 million for grants to construct state extended care facilities and includes Heinrich’s request for a review of the VA Secretary’s project prioritization process for these grants. The current prioritization criteria can have an adverse impact to veterans in rural states, as some of the criteria are influenced by population.
Suicide Prevention Coordinators: Heinrich successfully advocated for report language that improves veteran access to Suicide Prevention Coordinators. In 2018, the veteran suicide rate in New Mexico was significantly higher than the national veteran suicide rate and the general population suicide rate. The VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator utilizes real-time technologies to remain engaged in a veteran’s daily life and proactively support veterans to ensure they are well. The bill includes $559 million for veteran suicide prevention outreach.
VA Medical and Prosthetics Research: The bill delivers $938 million in funding for research on Prosthetics and Limb Loss. The VA’s Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service is the largest and most comprehensive provider of prosthetic devices and sensory aids in the world. This funding would continue to support the VA’s research to restore veterans’ highest possible level of functioning within their families, communities, and workplaces by providing the most up to date prosthetics.
Neurology Centers of Excellence: Nine million veterans are enrolled in VA care around the nation, including many who suffer from neurologic diseases. Many of these veterans benefit from the unique care of neurology-related Centers of Excellence, which are fully integrated into a VA medical center to better coordinate multidisciplinary care. There are centers around the country that focus on Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Parkinson's, and Headache Disorders. The bill provides $70 million of funding to build on this work, provides clear funding for all the Centers, and aligns the Epilepsy and Headache centers.
The bill includes significant funding for 9 local projects across New Mexico, which Heinrich helped to secure. Find a list of those projects here.
The bill was previously voted out of Committee in a unanimous 29-0 vote on July 20. Highlights include:
Rental Assistance: The bill increases funding for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (Housing Choice Vouchers) and Project-Based Rental Assistance. The Housing Choice Voucher Program helps over 12,000 families in New Mexico. Heinrich also secured additional administrative funding for public housing authorities to ensure that voucher holders, and other individuals who qualify for HUD housing programs, receive the necessary help and assistance to find safe and affordable housing.
Tribal Housing: Heinrich successfully advocated for an increase of $61.6 million from FY23 for the Indian Housing Block Grant. The Indian Housing Block Grant program is the single largest source of Tribal housing assistance. The program funds affordable housing activities including new housing construction, rehabilitation, and housing services. Heinrich also successfully ensured that funding was not cut from the Tribal HUD-VA Supportive Housing Program, which provides rental assistance and supportive services to Native American veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness living on or near a reservation or other Tribal areas.
Housing Supportive Services: The bill increases funding for the Resident Opportunities and Supportive Services (ROSS) Program and the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program. The ROSS program allows public housing authorities to hire a program coordinator who links residents with training opportunities, job placement organizations, and local employers, and the FSS program promotes increased earnings and savings among families receiving HUD-funded rental assistance. Program participants work with an FSS service coordinator to identify their financial and employment-related goals, including education or training, and can access a range of support services, such as childcare or credit repair, that can assist in achieving their goals.
Zero-Emission Buses: The bill includes $50 million in additional funding for the Low and No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle Grant Program, which supports transit agencies in purchasing or leasing low or no emission buses and other transit vehicles that use advanced technologies such as battery electric or fuel-cell power. The vehicles can provide a cleaner, more energy efficient transit service in communities across the country. Heinrich is a longtime proponent of this program, introducing the Low or No Emission Bus Access Act in 2020 and securing it in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.
Active Transportation Infrastructure: Heinrich successfully advocated for continued funding of $45 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investments Program at the Federal Highway Administration, which awards grants for communities to invest in active transportation networks that include walking and biking routes that enable people to reach their destinations more safely.
The bill includes significant funding for 16 local projects across New Mexico, which Heinrich helped to secure. Find a list of those projects here.