Approved earlier today in the House of Representatives, the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill now moves to the Senate, where lawmakers must pass it soon to avoid a government shutdown at midnight on Friday. The measure includes several provisions that benefit farmers, ranchers and rural communities, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The omnibus would amend the cooperative tax deduction (Section 199A) to restore balance to commodity markets and re-establish fairness between cooperative and non-cooperative farmers. It would also amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act to clarify that air emissions from animal waste at a farm are not applicable under this act so farmers do not need to report them.
In addition, the legislation would give agricultural haulers a reprieve from the electronic logging device mandate through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2018. Currently, haulers transporting livestock and insects have a 90-day waiver through June 18 from the mandate.
Other provisions important to agriculture and rural communities include a pilot program related to county-level agricultural risk coverage payments; critical forest management reforms, including allowing the U.S. Forest Service to adjust its cap when its fire-suppression budget goes above the 10-year average; a pilot program to allocate $625 million for broadband service in underserved and unserved areas; and funding for a wide array of federal programs within USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and other departments and agencies.
While Farm Bureau supports the legislation, the group noted it’s disappointment in the lack of language related to the Waters of the U.S. rule.
“We had hoped Congress would include language that would have authorized the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the secretary of the Army to withdraw the 2015 Waters of the United States rule. This would have granted express statutory authority to the agencies to withdraw a rule that courts have already found to be likely illegal and would allow the agencies to move forward on their efforts to develop a new WOTUS rule that comports with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a letter urging lawmakers to pass the bill.