A pair of fiscal 2020 spending packages that will boost farm disaster relief, extend the biodiesel tax subsidy and bolster ag inspections at ports and airports easily cleared the Senate on Thursday.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measures, which the Senate passed easily Thursday afternoon, to avert a government shutdown after funding was set to expire Friday.
The first of the two bills, a domestic-focused package that includes funding for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency, would authorize $1.5 billion in additional disaster relief for 2018 and 2019 to augment the $3 billion in aid approved this summer.
The bill also will funds a series of small programs that were created by the 2018 farm bill.
The legislation, which the Senate passed 71-23, “includes resources for critical domestic priorities that our entire nation will benefit from receiving,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
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Attached to the bill was a series of tax measures, including a provision extending the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel to 2022. The tax credit, which expired at the end of 2017, was made effective retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.
A tax credit for short-line railroads also was made effective through 2022, and the tax package also includes extensions for tax breaks that subsidize cellulosic biofuels, electric vehicles and alternative fuels equipment.
In addition, the bill would protect the nonprofit status of rural electric cooperatives that receive disaster aid or broadband funding.
The second bill, which the Senate approved XX-XX, 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.
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