Merkley, Wyden Announce Major Investments for Oregon’s Agriculture and Rural Communities in Year-End Funding Package

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and
Ron Wyden today announce major investments in Oregon agriculture, rural
housing, food assistance, and rural business priorities, which are included in
Congress’s fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations package. The legislation
passed in the Senate and is expected to clear the House of Representatives this
week before being signed into law by President Biden.  

“As I hold a town hall for each of Oregon’s 36 counties
every year, I hear from folks in every corner of the state about what matters
most to them, including ensuring our world-class agriculture sector has the
support it needs to grow and thrive,” said Merkley, who previously served as
the top Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that writes the
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related
Agencies bill. 
“The agriculture bill I championed includes significant
investments for family farms, rural housing, food assistance, habitat
restoration, and wildfire smoke recovery. The legislation also prioritizes
making Oregon’s agriculture more resilient to the impacts of climate chaos to
protect the livelihoods of our farmers, ranchers, and producers. These huge
investments will benefit farms and families in every corner of the

“Oregon’s family farmers and ranchers have put Oregon
on the map as an agriculture powerhouse, all while supporting jobs across the
state. This package goes far in helping family farms continue to thrive and
meet the challenges of today, like the climate crisis,” said Wyden. “It
also puts families front and center, helping to get more folks in rural Oregon
housed with food on the table. I will keep fighting to secure similar
investments that support all Oregon families and provide opportunities to grow
our rural economies.”  

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either
chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee,
considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the
committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about
the investments our nation should be making.

Key funding for agriculture includes:

Disaster relief: The bill includes $3.7
billion in disaster relief payments for farmers and ranchers who experienced
loss due to drought, extreme heat, wildfires, floods, or smoke exposure. 

Water Conservation and Habitat Restoration:

bill includes $75 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations.
This funding used to replace open irrigation ditches with pipes is crucial for
irrigation districts that need to improve water efficiency and conservation or
otherwise improve fish and wildlife habitat. This program is providing critical
funding for the collaborative processes underway across the state working to
conserve water and keep Oregon’s family farms in business while improving the
habitats of endangered species. 

Wine Grape Smoke Exposure Research: The
unprecedented wildfire seasons of recent years have blanketed much of the state
of Oregon with dense, hazardous smoke, which has significantly impacted
Oregon’s wine grape harvest. To better understand the challenges facing
Oregon’s wine growers, the bill includes $5 million for research into
smoke-impacted grapes at Oregon State University (OSU) and other West Coast

Rural Energy Saving Program: The bill provides
$110 million in loan authority for energy efficiency upgrades. The
program—which provides funding to rural utilities and other companies to
increase energy efficiency—was created by Senator Merkley, who prioritized
getting the funding needed to kickstart the program when he was the top
Democrat on the Agriculture subcommittee.

Oregon Agricultural Research and Facilities Investment: The
Agricultural Research Service is receiving an increase of $111 million in
funding for cutting-edge research to improve the productivity, sustainability,
and health of the nation’s agricultural systems. In addition, funding was
secured for key Oregon agriculture research programs, including funding for
research on the Sudden Oak Death pathogen plaguing the south coast. Other
research funding victories include research for alfalfa, barley, tree fruits,
pear, wheat, hops, hemp, apple, shellfish, small fruits, seaweed, floriculture,
nurseries, and rangeland ecology. The bill also includes funding for facilities
improvements at the Burns and Pendleton ARS Stations.

Western Rangeland Livestock: The bill includes
$1.5 million for the Western Rangeland Precision Livestock center to develop
precision-based nutrition strategies for rangeland-based livestock, as well as
technology-based rangeland and livestock management strategies to optimize the
health and productivity of Western rangeland-based livestock and the rangeland
ecosystem. This funding will be split among land grant universities in Oregon,
Montana, and Wisconsin. 

Rangeland Precision Livestock Management: The
bill includes $3 million to promote economically efficient and environmentally
responsive livestock production systems for the Western rangeland. The bill
supports precision nutrition strategies for rangeland-based livestock as well
as technology-based rangeland and livestock management strategies to optimize
the health and productivity of Western rangeland ecosystem. 

Rural Housing: The bill includes $1.487
billion for rental assistance and $48 million for Rural Housing Service
Vouchers, which will help address the urgent housing crisis facing Oregon’s
rural communities.

Rural Development: The bill includes funding
for a number of USDA’s Rural Development programs, including rural housing and
business development programs. These programs make billions of dollars of
investments in rural America every year. Total funding for the Rural
Development mission area is $4.4 billion, a $401 million increase over fiscal
year 2022. 

Rural Health: The bill includes critical
investments in health care access and delivery in rural areas, including $145
million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and $12.5 million for
State Offices of Rural Health, including the Oregon Office of Rural Health. The
bill also includes $5 million to establish an Office of Rural Health at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—language based off Senator
Merkley’s Rural
Health Equity Act
 and a priority he led the charge in championing with
bipartisan Senate and House colleagues. 

Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT): The bill
funds the Summer EBT program at $40 million, and also provides for a permanent
extension of the program which was set to expire at the end of 2023. This
program has provided much-needed nutrition for Oregon families during the
summer months when schools are not in session. 

Hemp: The bill provides $4 million for
Agricultural Research Services to partner with institutions conducting biotech
and genomics research to improve hemp genetic research and breeding with new
techniques. Hemp has quickly become one of Oregon’s leading cash crops, and
indicators suggest it has the potential to bring in more than $1 billion in
sales to Oregon in the coming years given a fair and consistent regulatory

For critical community-initiated projects championed by
Senators Merkley and Wyden that are receiving funding to support Oregon’s
agriculture and rural communities, click HERE