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Hirono, Sullivan Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Funding for USDA Program Supporting Farmers and Ranchers in Hawaii and Alaska

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced the RTCP Revitalization Act, legislation to secure additional funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment (RTCP) Program. The program enables geographically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in Hawaii, Alaska, and other insular areas to receive reimbursements for costs incurred when transporting supplies such as feed, fertilizer, and equipment parts. The bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers help boost our local economies and enable communities to have access to fresh, healthy produce,” said Senator Hirono. “I am glad to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill to support local producers in Hawaii, Alaska, and other insular areas.”

“Our bill will help more farmers in Hawai‘i get their products where they need to go, and help make locally-produced food more affordable,” said Senator Schatz.

“We deeply appreciate the hard work put forth in this legislation to support our local farmers and ranchers,” said Murray Clay, president of Ulupono Initiative. “Along with increasing the number of agricultural producers who can participate in the RTCP program, this legislation also increases the amount of funding they can receive. This would help hundreds of Hawaii food producers with cost savings on eligible transportation costs and, as a result, support their efforts to become more profitable and remain a valuable food source as our state continues to work towards our agricultural sustainability goals.”

The RTCP program was established in the 2008 Farm Bill in recognition of the increased costs producers face in geographically disadvantaged areas. USDA began administering the program in 2010 and throughout its history, demand for this popular program has substantially exceeded available funds. In addition to Hawaii and Alaska, the program is also available to farmers, ranchers, and producers in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Virgin Islands.

Due to the increase in both demand for the program as well as costs for producers, the RTCP Revitalization Act aims to secure additional funding for the program. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Provide mandatory funding for RTCP, starting with $10 million in fiscal year (FY) 2024, increasing by $1 million each year to $15 million in FY 2029, and then provides $15 million each fiscal year thereafter;
  • Remove statutory language setting a $15 million payment cap for any given fiscal year; and
  • Provide language saying that the USDA Secretary may not impose a cap to individual producer payments for any fiscal year that program funds exceed demand.

The full text of the bill is available here. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.