The House passed its appropriations bill for almost all federal agencies late Thursday night that included several policy riders for USDA.
On the Senate side of Congress, businesses keep waiting for senators to take up the tax-extender package that passed the House last week. That bill also includes language that would raise the diesel tax on inland waterways that the industry supports.
The House passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill on a 219-206 vote lateThursday that reflects some division in both parties. Democrats opposed provisions that would boost campaign contributions and strip some protections from the Dodd-Frank Act. Some Republicans wanted to do more to block the president's immigration order. The ball is again now kicked back to the Senate, which could work over the weekend on both this spending bill and the tax package.
Under the funding provision approved by the House, Farm Service Agency would be blocked from cutting staff or offices.
The bill blocks the Farm Service Agency from closing 250 county offices or eliminating 815 staff. The budget agreement actually puts a "temporary moratorium" on closing FSA offices or relocating employees" until a comprehensive assessment of FSA workload is completed by USDA. "This agreement reiterates dissatisfaction with the agency's budget submission. The budget request did not provide a rationale for the proposed office closures and staffing changes, did not clearly describe the effect of the proposed actions, and did not include a timeline for implementation that demonstrates how savings could be achieved."
USDA also is directed to operate the Marketing Assistance Loan Program in a way that encourages redemption and minimizes forfeitures of commodity loans.
Within 15 day or a final resolution at the World Trade Organization, or May 1, 2015, whichever comes first, USDA must submit a new plan for COOL to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees with recommendations for any changes in federal law "that does not conflict with, or is in any manner inconsistent with, the trade obligations of the United States."
In another win for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the bill also blocks the secretary from using the 1996 checkoff act to implement a new, parallel beef checkoff. "An overwhelming majority of cattle producers do not support paying assessments into two separate beef checkoff programs operating simultaneously," the bill states. "The Secretary is directed not to implement a second duplicative beef checkoff program."
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