Just after midnight on Friday, the Senate passed the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill. Several aspects of the measure, which cleared the House on Thursday, are important to farmers, ranchers and rural communities, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. White House officials initially said President Trump would sign the bill, but Trump in a tweet Friday morning said he was considering a veto because the measure did not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or provide enough funding for a border wall. If the president does not sign the bill by midnight, many government operations will shut down.
The omnibus amends the cooperative tax deduction (Section 199A) to restore balance to commodity markets and re-establish fairness between cooperative and non-cooperative farmers. It also clarifies that air emissions from animal waste at a farm are not applicable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
In addition, the legislation provides 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 supported 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.