The Senate is expected to clear a stopgap spending bill this week that will keep the government operating and trade-aid payments flowing to farmers after the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The continuing resolution, which the House passed overwhelmingly on Thursday, 301-123, is expected to be the signed by President Donald Trump. There is little appetite in the nation’s capitol for a second government shutdown this year.
The measure would keep the government funded until Nov. 21 while the House and Senate negotiate the 12 FY20 spending bills.
House and Senate leaders and appropriators worked out deals on a number of provisions in the continuing resolution, including several important to farmers.
The bill would replenish the Commodity Credit Corp. borrowing authority that USDA is using to make trade-aid payments under the Market Facilitation Program as well as routine commodity program payments. The measure also includes $16.4 million to fund a new hemp production program at USDA, a priority issue for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Also included is a provision backed by the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, John Hoeven, R-N.D., that would allow a southern Minnesota sugarbeet cooperative to qualify for payments under the 2018-2019 disaster-aid program. Under current rules, payments can only go to individual farmers.
The bill also would strip a matching requirement from USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
McConnell hasn’t commented on the continuing resolution but he has let it be known that the hemp funding is a priority for him.
In a statement after the hemp funding appeared separately in a Senate FY20 spending bill for USDA last week, he said, “With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and my hemp legalization provision, it’s important to provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the resources necessary to get the hemp program up and running. Once enacted, this federal funding will benefit this exciting new industry.”
Also this week, public comment periods will end on two proposed rules with far-reaching impacts on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and on farmers.
On Monday, the comment period ends on a rule released by USDA in July to tighten eligibility requirements for SNAP. The rule would remove an estimated 3 million people from the rolls in states that use current regulations to sign up people with incomes that exceed federal earnings limits.
The rule would rewrite “categorical eligibility” provisions that allow people to qualify for SNAP if they receive any benefits or services through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. In many states, the service consists of as little as a brochure or hotline referral.
On Tuesday, the comment period will end on the Labor Department’s proposed overhaul of the H-2A visa program that allows farms to import temporary workers. The rule would have varying impacts on worker wages, while cutting farmers’ transportation expenses and reducing the number of applications farms have to file to import employees.
The department declined last week to extend the comment period.
Also on Monday, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky will headline the annual Ag Outlook Forum in Kansas City co-sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.
Other speakers and panelists at the all-day conference will include Jason Hafemeister, trade counsel to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue; USDA Deputy Chief Economist Warren Preston; Luke Chandler, chief economist for John Deere; Jim Farrell, president of Farmers National Co.; Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, and Pat Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri-based Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.
Friday is the new deadline for milk producers to sign up for the new Dairy Margin Coverage program. Enrollment, which started in June, was supposed to end last Friday, but USDA is giving farmers another week. Last week’s enrollment status report showed that 20,647 farms had enrolled in DMC, about 55% of the licensed dairy operations nationwide.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., applauded USDA for “demonstrating some flexibility” on the deadline.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Sep. 23
All day — Ag Outlook Forum, co-sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, Kansas City.
Comment deadline for USDA’s proposed rule changing categorical eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Sep. 24
Deadline for commenting on Labor Department’s proposed H-2A rule.
8:30 a.m. — Washington International Trade Association sponsors “Intensive Trade Seminar: How the U.S. Government Formulates and Enforces Trade Policy,”through Wednesday.
9 a.m. — Farm Foundation forum on incentives for conservation in agriculture, National Press Club.
9:30 a.m. — Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its fiscal 2020 spending bill, 124 Dirksen.
2 p.m. — Members of Congressional Western Caucus and industry groups hold a roundtable discussion on plans to overhaul the Endangered Species Act, 212-10 Senate Visitors Center.
2:45 p.m. - House Rules subcommittee hearing on disaster resilience, H-313 Capitol.
Wednesday, Sep. 25
9 a.m. — USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.
10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the poultry and livestock sectors, 106 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on international food aid programs, 2362-A Rayburn.
12:30 p.m. — Jim Collins, CEO of Corteva Agriscience, speaks at the National Press Club.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on reducing emissions, 406 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. - Plant-Based Foods Association panel, "Agricultural Opportunities for American Farmers," 201 Capitol Visitors Center.
Thursday, Sep. 26
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the national forest system, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing, “Understanding, Forecasting and Communicating Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate,” 2318 Rayburn.
10:30 a.m. — Senate Appropriations Committee meeting to consider the FY20 Interior-Environment, Commerce-Justice-Science, Homeland Security, and Legislative Branch spending bills, 106 Dirksen.
2 p.m. — House Natural Resources Committee hearing, “The Department of the Interiors Failure to Cooperate with Congressional Oversight Requests,” 1324 Longworth.
Friday, Sep. 27
10 a.m. — Bipartisan Policy Center forum, “Immigration and the 2020 election,” 1225 Eye Street NW.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com.