(NAFB) — Senate appropriators rolled out agency spending bills, including one for USDA this week, hoping to avoid the need for more stop-gap funding when the temporary Fiscal Year 2021 money expires December 11th. The proposed Senate bill calls for over 23 billion dollars in USDA discretionary funding, a bit less than a House-passed version, but both increase or fully fund Ag research, conservation, FSA, food inspection, nutrition, rural development, and broadband. Here is American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF’s) Ryan Yates.
“It looks like the House and Senate will be moving forward to try to put together an omnibus appropriations bill, and certainly, they’ve got to get that done before the December 11th deadline.”
That’s when temporary funding for the government expires. But Yates admits the political lift will be heavy in such a short time, not to mention a disputed election, and more divided new Congress.
“It’s a big lift. Again, all indications show that that is something they’re going to attempt to do. The fallback, obviously, is a CR. So, again, if those negotiations crumble and they can’t come to a deal, then certainly they can fall back on a CR.”
That’s a “continuing resolution” that extends old funding levels further into the new fiscal year, which is a ‘kick-the-can” approach that leaves key spending decisions for a new Congress and administration and producers with no new funding for top priorities
And chances for a new economic stimulus bill with significant help for agriculture may have become much tougher with a new House and Senate now more narrowly divided, and Senate control hinging on two January Senate runoffs in Georgia. The margin will be much narrower in the House and razor-thin in the Senate.
“With a narrow margin in the 117th, I think leadership would like to start fresh. I think they’d like to get this done so that they can begin the new administration and a new Congress without lingering business that’s left over from the previous Congress.”
Farmers, ranchers, dairy, and biofuel producers are still dealing with losses in the tens of billions of dollars, despite earlier COVID relief, including some 30 billion dollars from USDA’s CFAP I and II programs. A failed Senate measure last month would have provided another 20 billion dollars in farm assistance. Other questions still swirling in the aftermath of the election involve possible Biden executive orders to reverse Trump policies. But Ryan says reversing the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule would take another rule.
“The regulatory process takes time. So, if there are particular regulations, you mentioned WOTUS and the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, if it is something that future administrations want to look at, they certainly have the ability to do that. But again, that has to go through that formal rulemaking, notice, and comment process.”
Yates says AFBF has spent decades developing policy on ‘navigable waters’ at the core of WOTUS, and any attempt to move away from WOTUS gains, he says, is “something we would engage on,” calling it a “passionate issue” for Farm Bureau.
(From the National Association of Farm Broadcasters)