House Democrats are considering a stopgap spending bill that could prevent or slow delivery of President Trump's trade aid payments to farmers after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., has proposed to deny a request from the White House to include a provision in the continuing resolution keeping the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) from going over its $30 billion borrowing limit, as first reported in the Washington Post.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been using the CCC authority to make payments under the Market Facilitation Program.
"House Democrats have circulated a draft of a clean continuing resolution that avoids controversial issues and keeps the government open," Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, told Agri-Pulse in an email. "Discussions are continuing on this draft, with the goal of reaching bipartisan agreement and averting a government shutdown."
The House is scheduled to vote next week on the bill, which is needed to keep the government funded after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
USDA plans to spend $28 billion over the next two years and is expected to hit the borrowing limit this fall, which would cause the limit to be breached. USDA officials didn't immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on Lowey's plan.
The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Friday that he would work to ensure continued delivery of the MFP payments.
“Given the challenges in farm country, the Market Facilitation Payment program provides vital support for our producers who have been targeted by retaliatory tariffs during trade negotiations, and I do not think those payments should be delayed. I will work to ensure that our producers have access to this vital program and to ensure funding for the CCC," he said in a statement to Agri-Pulse.
Earlier this week, Perdue told reporters at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture meeting in New Mexico that the department has been talking to Congress regularly.
"We’ve very carefully looked at the cashflow situation of CCC, and you know the replenishment comes around this time of year so that’s what we really rely on as far as the funding for CCC going forward," Perdue said. "I don’t expect to see any limits. Because of the way the payment allocations are designed, we feel that we will be safely under the cap going forward in that regard."
The House’s top Republican was quick to blast Democrats on Twitter after learning of Lowey's plan.
“Farming is hard enough work as it is,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “But now Democrats are trying to squeeze American farmers even more by blocking a program that helps them withstand China's unfair trade policies. We’ve got to start putting America first!”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told the Post that he hopes to talk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the continuing resolution, but “we do not intend to put anything into it that we think is controversial."
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