The House approved a pair of fiscal 2020 spending packages Tuesday that will provide a fresh infusion of disaster relief to farmers, extend the expired biodiesel credit to 2022 and bolster port inspections to protect U.S. agriculture for African swine fever and other threats.
The giant bills, which would fund the government through next Sept. 30, are expected to pass the Senate later this week before going to President Donald Trump for his signature. The government has been funded since the fiscal year began Oct. 1 by successive short-term continuing resolutions, the second of which expires Friday.
One of the FY20 bills, which covers USDA among other agencies, focused primarily on domestic programs, authorizes $1.5 billion in disaster relief for farmers hit by this year’s bad weather, including blizzards and heavy precipitation at harvest time, to supplement the $3 billion in aid passed by lawmakers in June.
The bill’s provisions include one to compensate farmers for quality losses as well as reduced yield. Another provision would make some farmers eligible for payments if they experienced shorter periods of drought in 2018 than currently required. The House approved the bill 297-120.
The national security-focused bill, approved 280-138, includes funding for the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security. Customs and Border Protection, part of DHS, would get $104.4 million to fund 800 new positions, including 610 additional officers and agriculture specialists.
A joint explanatory statement that accompanies the bill also urges CBP to use fee revenue to hire up to a total of 1,200 CBP officers and 240 agriculture specialists during the fiscal year that ends next Sept. 30.
The domestic spending bill would give a fresh boost to rural broadband deployment by providing USDA $555 million in a third tranche of funding for the ReConnect loan and grant program created in 2018.
The extension of the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel was included in a 58-page tax package, estimated to cost $53.8 billion over 10 years, that was finalized early Tuesday and added to the domestic spending bill by the House Rules Committee. The credit will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.
The tax agreement also extended a short-line railroad tax credit through 2022 and would fix a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that threatened the nonprofit status of some rural electric cooperatives.
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The domestic bill would kick-start some new programs authorized by the 2018 farm bill, including $20 million for dairy business innovation initiatives, $1 million for healthy fluid milk incentives projects, and $5 million for micro-grants for food security. There also is $400,000 for a new food loss and waste liaison office at USDA and $1 million for a composting pilot program.
The bill earmarks $17.4 million for the farm bill's Local Agriculture Market Program, including $12 million for the value added producer grants.
“The agriculture portion of this entire package includes support for the hard work of our farmers and ranchers and producers, who give us something that we really all do take for granted — some of the lowest grocery prices in the world,” said Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, the top Republican on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
The Environmental Protection Agency would be funded at $9.06 billion under the bill, a $208 million increase over the FY19 level and $2.83 billion more than Trump proposed. EPA's compliance monitoring and enforcement programs would be increased $24 million to $552 million.
Within the Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management would be funded at $1.4 billion, a $24 million increase over FY19, including $4 million more for sage grouse conservation, bringing that initiative's total FY20 funding to $72 million.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would get a major, $47 million increase in FY20 to $315 million.
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