WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2016 - Congress has cleared a stopgap spending bill that will keep the government running until December, averting a shutdown that could have occurred when the new fiscal year starts this Saturday. 

Passage of the continuing resolution (CR) was assured when House Republicans agreed to allow an aid package for Flint, Mich., to be added to a water projects authorization bill that the House passed yesterday evening. 

Approval of the CR means Congress will be out of session until after the election. Congressional appropriators will be spending the coming weeks working on legislation to fund the rest of the fiscal year.

House vote opens way for talks on water bill. Agribusiness groups are cheering House passage of its bill to reauthorize waterway and port projects. That vote clears the way for negotiators to begin work on a compromise with a broader Senate-passed measure that includes authorization for drinking water projects. 

The compromise bill will be a major priority for the lame duck session that will start after the November election.

Both bills would put Congress back on a two-year schedule for reauthorizing water projects. Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, says that’s important because it will help ensure that lawmakers pay more attention to the needs of waterways and ports. 

“One of the challenges confronting the inland waterway system and barge transportation is that it is largely out of sight and therefore out of mind for many policymakers,” he said. 

CFTC nominees clear hurdle. The Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday formally approved nominees to fill the two vacancies on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. A Senate leadership spokesman says it’s not clear when the full Senate will act on the nominations. 

Chris Brummer, a Georgetown University law professor, and Brian Quintenz, a former Republican congressional aide, both promised at their confirmation hearing this month to seek grassroots input from farmers and ranchers on actions the agency is considering. 

Senate OKs seed treaty. Before wrapping up its pre-election work yesterday, the Senate finally ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculturewhich was designed to set rules for sharing genetic material on 64 of the world’s most important crops

The American Seed Trade Association and a broad array of other U.S. farm groups support the treaty, which was first negotiated during the Bush administration. 

Farms, small businesses object to change estate tax rules. Small businesses and agricultural groups from across the country are calling on the Treasury Department to kill proposed regulations that could increase the value of estates for tax purposes. 

letter to the department signed by the businesses and groups says the rules “would impose significant new tax costs on family-owned businesses, diverting capital from business investment, costing jobs and threatening the ability of families to pass businesses on to the next generation of owners.”

The department says it’s closing a loophole that allows owners of closely held businesses to artificially lower the value of their assets by discounting the value of ownership interests. The current estate tax exemption is $5.45 million per person or $10.9 million per couple.

China adds countervailing duties to US DDGS. China is moving ahead with imposing countervailing duties on U.S. dried distiller’s grains imports. In the latest action in the case, China announced a preliminary decision to implement duties of between 10 percent and 10.7 percent to counter U.S. subsidies. 

Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association and the U.S. Grains Council expressed their disappointment with China’s action in a joint statement. The three groups insist that U.S. DDGs haven’t hurt Chinese producers and play an important role in protecting the Chinese from global market swings. 

Rice producers like disaster accounts. The USA Rice Federation is throwing its support behind a proposal to allow farmers to create tax-deferred farm savings accounts that producers could tap after natural disasters and other difficult times. The group says the Farm Risk Abatement and Mitigation Election, or FRAME Act, would be a good addition to farm bill programs.

“Given the recent flooding throughout the Gulf and the Mid-South, this type of tool could incentivize young people to get into farming and also help them stay in farming,” says Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for USA Rice

The bill’s sponsor, Rick Crawford, R-Ark., tells Agri-Pulse that the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, supports the legislation. Ways and Means has jurisdiction over tax law. 

USDA announces $56 million for local farms, poor neighborhoods. USDA will be distributing $56 million worth of grants for a wide range of projects to benefit rural farming communities, organic farmers and low-income-neighborhoods.

About 100 new projects aimed at supporting rural economies and increasing marketing opportunities for farmers will receive $26 million. Another $8.6 million will go towards funding projects to increase the availability or healthy food in low-income neighborhoods. 

USDA also is providing $21.4 million for 26 projects to help boost organic food production and marketing.

Trump and Clinton tell Farm Bureau they won’t support TPP.  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have reaffirmed their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in response to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Trump’s response: "I strongly oppose TPP as drafted and will work hard to develop trade agreements that are in the national interest and benefit American workers including our farmers.”

The Clinton campaign: “Hillary has been clear and specific in her opposition to the TPP. She opposes it now, she opposes it in November, and she will not move it forward in January.”

The candidate’s full responses on trade, the TPP and other issues can be found on the Farm Bureau’s web site.

Spencer Chase and Bill Tomson contributed to this report. 



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