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Agriculture getting a tiny slice of the economic stimulus pie

Agriculture.com Staff 01/28/2009 @ 12:17pm

It's the biggest story going in the nation today. But, how does the farm sector fit in to the economic stimulus package lawmakers are hoping will right the U.S. economy?

That's the topic of a Congressional Research Service report that was circulated to members of Congress this week. Though the report's yet to be made public, officials say it indicates $27 billion of the $825 billion total package, or 3.3%, will go toward the ag sector.

"Farmers should not expect a check in the mailbox," says Stu Ellis with University of Illinois Extension. The $27 billion figure for ag amounts to slightly more than the total USDA budget, Ellis adds.

"More than $21 billion will be used for nutrition assistance and about 92% of those nutrition funds will be for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which was formerly the food stamp program," he says. "Other nutrition funds will be allocated to after school feeding programs, senior citizens, emergency food assistance and the WIC program for women, infants and children."

That's not to say rural America will be completely left out of the federal stimulus package. Of the USDA allotment, $5.125 will go toward rural development and infrastructure improvements, Ellis says, over a two-year time period. The money will be used primarily to fund grants and loans.

"That is double the annual USDA appropriation, and with local matching funds, raises the local impact to nearly $35 billion," Ellis adds.

An additional $400 million of the economic stimulus bill will go toward conservation programs, including watershed projects, flood prevention, floodplain easement purchases and dam rehabilitation.

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It's the biggest story going in the nation today. But, how does the farm sector fit in to the economic stimulus package lawmakers are hoping will right the U.S. economy?

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