A bipartisan agreement on spending levels for fiscal 2021 is raising hope that lawmakers can agree on a government-wide spending bill before the end of the year.
Aides to Senate Agriculture Appropriations Chairman John Hoeven, R- N.D., confirmed to Agri-Pulse the two chambers reached an agreement on spending caps on the 12 individual measures that would likely be combined into an omnibus bill. The FY21 spending limits have not been disclosed.
The continuing resolution that has been funding the government since FY21 began Oct. 1 expires Dec. 11. The government would partially shut down after that unless Congress passes another CR or reaches an agreement on an omnibus measure.
Another piece of unfinished business for Congress is a series of expiring tax provisions, some of which are important to agriculture. They include a tax credit for cellulosic biofuel, a tax credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling equipment and tax incentives for craft breweries, wineries and distilleries.
“Allowing these tax extenders to lapse at the end of 2020 would undermine their effectiveness, threaten thousands of jobs in the U.S. economy and cause needless uncertainty for taxpayers at a time when many are coping with severe economic hardship,” the American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups said in a recent letter to congressional leaders.
Meanwhile this week, the House is scheduled to vote on a Senate-passed bill to reauthorize the federal grain inspection program for the next five years. The bill was placed on the House suspension bill and will need a two-thirds majority to pass.
On Wednesday, former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman will be among the witnesses at a Senate Agriculture Committee titled, "Agricultural Research and Securing the United States Food Supply." Other witnesses will include Steven Rosenzweig, senior agricultural scientist with General Mills Inc., Kansas sorghum producer Amy France, and Stephen Higgs, associate vice president of research at Kansas State University and director of KSU's Biosecurity Research Institute.
Despite the progress on FY21 funding, congressional Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on a new coronavirus relief package.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said during an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview that he still thinks there could be a targeted bill.
“Certain segments of the economy really have recovered pretty well and I think you’ve seen those with those recent numbers that, that continues but it still takes a lot of money to keep our kids in school and keep them safe,” he said.
However, he said industries that have not recovered include places like restaurants and movie theaters.
“If we want those niches to survive the valley of the shadow of death, I think some targeted focused relief would make a ton of sense,” he said.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been saying a coronavirus relief bill should be much larger than what Republicans want. Pelosi also wants to extend some of the provisions of the CARES Act, which are set to expire at the end of this year.
“We again want to add to that, meeting the food needs,” Pelosi said Nov. 20. “Seventeen million children in America are food insecure, and we couldn’t even get the food issue into the CARES Act. We need to get it into the legislation.”
Pelosi sounded more optimistic on reaching a FY21 spending deal with Republicans.
“We have to have an omnibus bill, we must keep government open,” Pelosi said. “We don’t want another continuing resolution, I don’t think (Republicans) do either.”
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday Nov. 30
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday Dec. 1
Wednesday Dec. 2
2:30 p.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on agricultural research, G50 Dirksen
Thursday Dec. 3
Friday Dec. 4
For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.