The Senate overwhelmingly cleared a bill Thursday to keep the government funded through Nov. 21 and replenish the account that USDA relies on to make trade-assistance and commodity program payments.
The continuing resolution, which the Senate approved 82-15, passed the House easily last week and is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Although the measure restores Commodity Credit Corp. borrowing authority that USDA is using to make trade-aid payments under the Market Facilitation Program, USDA is required to provide Congress with estimates for its MFP payments along with an analysis of the trade damages used to calculate them. The report, due by Oct. 31, also would have to detail all trade assistance given to companies that are foreign owned.
The stopgap bill will buy time for the House and Senate to reach agreement on the fiscal 2020 spending bills, none of which have even passed the Senate yet amid a partisan fight on what should be included.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said that passing the CR was the easy part. “The hard part is getting the bipartisan appropriations process back on track here in the Senate," he said.
The CR also includes $16.4 million for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to implement a new hemp production program required by the 2018 farm bill. USDA expects to issue an interim final rule this fall that will guide domestic hemp production for the 2020 growing season, including a process for the submission of state and tribal plans to USDA and for testing protocols for THC levels.
Another provision would waive a matching requirement for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which is funded at $80 million a year under the 2018 farm bill. The farm bill also expanded the program’s research priorities to include perennials, pollinators, invasive species, pesticide drift, as well as mechanization and automation.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved five FY20 spending bills on Thursday, including one to fund the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency. Interior and EPA would both get small increases under the bill, which is funded at $35.8 billion, up from $35.6 billion in FY19.
The House-passed bill is $1.5 billion higher for FY20 than the Senate bill.
The Senate bill’s allocation for the Interior Department includes full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which provides payments to local governments that have substantial amounts of federal land,.
EPA would be funded at just over $9 billion under the Senate bill, a $161 million increase from FY19, but $500 million under the House version.
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