Under pressure from rural lawmakers, House Democratic leaders are expected to ensure USDA can continue making trade assistance payments after the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
A senior Democratic aide said Monday that a provision requested by the White House to replenish USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. borrowing authority was likely to be included in a stopgap spending bill that the House is expected to consider this week. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been using the authority to fund payments to farmers under the Market Facilitation Program, but is getting close to the $30 billion borrowing limit.
"We are negotiating language to ensure accountability and transparency. There are also other pending issues in these talks," the aide said.
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., had considered omitting the CCC provision from the continuing resolution, which is necessary to keep the government funded after fiscal 2019 ends Sept. 30.
But some rural Democrats expressed support for the USDA request. On Monday, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Texas Rep. Filemon Vela, chairman of the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee, and California Rep. Jim Costa, who chairs the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, publicly called on the Democratic leadership to include the CCC provision in the bill.
“Although we mutually have concerns with President Trump’s approach to trade negotiations, we refuse to engage in the same tactics that punish our constituents and harm our communities that rely on agriculture," Peterson, Vela and Costa said in a joint statement. "We cannot and will not allow our farmers to be used as political pawns.”
First-term Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, had raised concern on Friday about Lowey's plan. “We cannot cut a lifeline to struggling farmers. I will not support a CR that doesn’t include tariff aid,” she said on her Twitter account.
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