Congress Passes Budget Bill Early This Morning
Washington-President Donald Trump signed the budget bill into law early Friday morning. The bill provides assistance to dairy producers and disaster aid to the nation's farmers and ranchers.
The bill, approved by the Senate and House early this morning came after a partial government shutdown last night. It extends government spending limits for two years and keeps the government operating through March 23. Next month lawmakers will have to pass another bill to fund federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year.
“The budget deal approved by Congress and signed by President Trump today includes a number of important agricultural provisions that will help America’s farmers and ranchers and support food security for all Americans," said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. "First, the measure assists farmers affected by natural disasters. Last year’s fires and hurricanes were devastating for many farmers. This disaster assistance is much needed so that affected producers can recover and continue to help feed, house, fuel and clothe our citizens."
Included in the budget agreement were provisions to help dairy farmers reduce the cost of the Margin Protection Program. The bill also extends an underwriting cap on livestock insurance policies.
The House and Senate Agriculture committees have set aside work on a new farm bill because they're now waiting for the dairy provisions to be added in the budget deal. Congressional appropriations rules allowed lawmakers to pay for the dairy provisions by creating $1.2 billion in new farm bill funding, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate and House Ag committees will now have to offset the cost of the dairy assistance with cuts to other parts of the farm bill.
The budget agreement has $2.4 billion in aid to farmers from last year’s hurricanes and adds to existing USDA disaster programs for livestock producers, fruit growers, and others.
The changes to disaster programs are retroactive to the start of 2017. Among the changes, the bill extends the $125,000-per-producer payment cap under the Livestock Indemnity Program and allows payments to producers that sold livestock at discount rates due to a natural disaster.
The bill also cut the $20 million annual cap on the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the legislation would double payment acreage for the Tree Assistance Program from 500 acres to 1,000 acres.
In addition, the bill restores the $1-a-gallon tax credit that subsidizes biodiesel. The credit had lapsed back in 2016.
The final House vote on the budget agreement didn’t come until about 3:30 a.m. our time Friday after the government had shut down for five hours. The Senate eventually approved the bill first, 71-28, and the House soon followed 240-186. President Trump signed the bill around 6:30 this morning.
“We appreciate the efforts of congressional Agriculture Committee leaders and congressional leadership to craft this package, secure bipartisan approval and get it signed by President Trump," added AFBF President Duvall.