President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal 2023 would boost Agriculture Department spending by 9%, including significant increases for agricultural research and conservation technical assistance and a new round of funding for rural broadband expansion.

The $31.1 billion budget proposal for USDA earmarks $1.8 billion for climate-related programs, including $300 million in new funding for loans to convert rural electric cooperatives to clean energy sources.

The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. The USDA budget request doesn't include the $165 billion estimated cost of nutrition assistance, commodity subsidies, federal crop insurance and other programs where spending levels are determined by eligibility under laws such as the farm bill. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the budget "provides USDA with the tools needed to support a vibrant, revitalized, and prosperous rural America. It contains transformational investments that will help rural communities build resilience to the climate crisis, increase landscape resiliency to the impacts of climate change, create more and better markets for our hardworking producers, bolster access to healthy and affordable nutrition for families, help connect all Americans to high-speed, affordable, and reliable internet, strengthen USDA’s efforts to build equitable systems and programming, and position the United States to be a leader in agricultural research."

The FY23 budget earmarks funding to address equity and diversity issues as well as to crack down on marketing practices in the meat and processing sector. The budget proposes an additional $10 million for oversight of the Packers and Stockyards Act to implement and enforce three new rules that will be issued by FY23, a USDA budget official said.

The budget includes $4 billion for agricultural research programs, up from the $3.5 billion they are getting for FY22, and $644 million over what was provided in FY21. The Agricultural Research Service, USDA’s in-house research arm, would get $238 million more, including $109 million earmarked for climate science, the official said. 

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program, would get slightly over $1 billion for conservation technical assistance for FY23, up from $832 million in FY22, to go with the $1.7 billion estimated to be available in FY23 from funding pools for EQIP, CSP and other farm bill programs. The combination of funding sources would pay for an estimated 11,746 NRCS personnel in FY23, and increase of 655 over FY22. 

NRCS would use $18 million of the funding increase for technical assistance for expanding its greenhouse gas monitoring. Some $50 million is earmarked for assisting socially disadvantaged farmers, veterans and beginning producers. 

The FY23 budget would provide an additional $600 billion for USDA’s ReConnect grant and loan program for broadband expansion to build on the $487 million Congress set aside for the program in the FY22 omnibus spending bill and the $2 billion earmarked for ReConnect under the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted last fall.

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The USDA budget includes a department-wide $365 million increase to cover a 4.6% pay raise for employees. 

The Environmental Protection Agency would be funded at $11.9 billion, a dramatic increase from the $9.6 billion provided for FY22.

Environmental justice and other equity and diversity issues continue to be a top priority for the administration. The budget advances the President’s Justice40 commitment to ensure 40% of federal climate and clean energy spending reaches "disadvantaged communities,” a budget summary says.

The White House also is using the budget to promise significant increases in funding for to improve ports and waterways, leveraging funding provided by the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted last fall. The budget includes $230 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program to strengthen maritime freight capacity, and  $1.7 billion in spending for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

The budget seeks to expand the use of electric vehicles across the government fleet, earmarking $757 million for vehicles and charging infrastructure. 

The budget also proposes major tax increases largely aimed at corporations and very wealthy individuals to help fund climate policy and various initiatives contained in the Build Back Better bill that is currently stalled in Congress. That bill includes $27 billion in funding for climate-smart farming practices.

The corporate income tax would be raised to 28% under Biden's plan and there would be a new minimum 20% tax on multi-millionaires and billionaires.  "This minimum tax would apply only to the wealthiest 0.01 percent of households—those with more than $100 million—and over half the revenue would come from billionaires alone," a budget summary says. 

Biden said his budget "sends a clear message that we value fiscal responsibility, safety and security at home and around the world, and the investments needed to continue our equitable growth and build a better America."

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