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D.C. update

Wednesday, February 14, 2018   (0 Comments)
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By Sarah Hubbart, director, Michael Torrey Associates

Government funding: On Feb.9, and after a brief government shutdown, the House and Senate approved a two-year budget deal (setting topline numbers through Sept. 30, 2019) that also extended government funding at current levels through March 23.

It adds about $300 billion in spending for defense and non-defense programs. President Trump backed the deal and signed it into law. Among other things, this bill includes disaster assistance provisions for farmers impacted by recent hurricanes and wildfires. It also makes cotton growers eligible for Title 1 programs, lifts the $20 million annual cap for Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) policies, and makes improvements to the Margin Protection Program (MPP).

Read more here.

Immigration: Notably, the budget deal did not address the rapidly approaching March 5 deadline for the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Senate Democrats ultimately supported the deal after receiving a commitment from Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate would bring up a bipartisan immigration reform bill that includes a legislative solution for DACA. Debate began the week of Feb. 13 on compromise legislation that is supported by the White House. It is unclear if the proposal will attract the 60 votes needed for passage or how the House would respond.

Read more here.

President’s budget: President Trump’s FY2019 budget request was released on Feb. 12. While non-binding, this provides a look at the White House’s priorities. Just like last year, the president’s budget includes cuts to USDA, this time to the tune of $47 billion for farm programs and $214 billion for the SNAP program, also known as food stamps, over 10 years. However, it would ultimately add $3 trillion in deficit spending over the next decade. The president’s budget was widely criticized by agriculture stakeholders. The House and Senate Agriculture Committee chairmen issued a joint statement saying they are “committed to maintaining a strong safety net for agricultural producers” and that the president’s budget would not prevent them from producing a farm bill that benefits farmers and consumers.

Read more here.

Farm bill: The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30. Both the House and Senate Agriculture committees have indicated interest in moving their bills in March, but draft text has yet to be seen. The inclusion of the cotton and dairy fixes in the budget deal could pave the way for smoother farm bill negotiations because it potentially frees up some funding baseline to use for other programs.

Read more here.

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