Washington Insider -- Tuesday

Congress Prepares to Punt Controversies

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Farm Bureau Gets Behind House Republican Effort to Make Several Tax Cuts Permanent

Support for a House Republican-backed bill, which would make several changes included in last year's tax reform package permanent is being voiced by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018 (HR 6760) would make several aspects of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent. While the 2017 legislation cut taxes for all businesses, only certain tax cuts for incorporated businesses operated as C corporations were permanent.

Most farms and ranches file their taxes as sole-proprietors, partnerships or S corporations, thus could see their taxes revert to higher levels in the future if the relevant tax cuts were allowed to sunset as provided for under the 2017 package.

Many of the tax cuts included in the original package, which not only reduced taxes for businesses but also included changes for personal income tax filers, were given a sunset date in part to allow the legislation to be enacted using the reconciliation process rather than through regular order.

Among the changes now considered in the House, which Farm Bureau supports making permanent are:

Reduced pass-through tax rates and expanded brackets;

The Section 199A new 20% business income deduction;

Unlimited bonus depreciation (expensing);

The doubled estate tax exemption ($11 million person/$22 million couple), and

The increased alternative minimum tax threshold for individuals.

Gottlieb Rolls Out Five-Year Plan to Combat Antibiotic Resistance On The Farm

FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) will stay busy over the next five years while doing its part in a new agency-wide strategy developed by FDA with the goal of combating antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in both veterinary and human medical settings.

In the next three years, for instance, CVM will be making key steps to ensure that all antibiotics on the farm are being used judiciously and in accordance to the seven core principles established by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Under a new, 21-page action plan, which was developed to reflect FDA’s broader antimicrobial resistance strategy and released on Friday (Sept. 14), CVM has committed to making efforts between 2019 and 2021 to bring the remaining 5% of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in animals (including certain injectable drugs) under veterinary oversight, and also to formulating a strategy to ensure such drugs have an appropriately targeted duration for use.

“FDA has determined that about 40% of approved medically important antimicrobial drugs used in the feed and water of food-producing animals include at least one indication that doesn’t have a defined duration of use,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Friday. “That’s why the FDA is announcing today our plans to develop and implement a strategy to address this issue.”

Washington Insider: Congress Prepares to Punt Controversies

The Hill is reporting this week that Congress is preparing to postpone fights over funding President Trump’s border wall and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act until after the November midterm elections.

However, the report notes that says there are still “a host of federal programs slated to expire on Sept. 30, meaning lawmakers may need to pass additional stopgap measures” if they can’t find a way forward.

One of these is whether to overhaul food stamps in the farm bill and whether to include trucking provisions in a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. And, this outlook is complicated by the fact that there are just nine legislative days before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. That’s putting the squeeze on both chambers and “lawmakers are starting to point fingers across the Capitol,” The Hill says.

“I’m not getting a lot of movement from the Senate side on work requirements,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, told The Hill, referring to the proposed changes to the food stamp program. “We need to break the logjam.”

Still, the House adjourned on Thursday for a weeklong recess and appropriators were able to announce a spending deal to fund the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments in time for the fiscal 2019 year – a significant feat given recent history, The Hill opined.

Lawmakers also sent a trio of other spending bills to the President’s desk before House members left town. But the spending agreement announced Thursday includes a continuing resolution to fund the rest of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security through Dec. 7.

President Trump has been demanding money for his promised southern wall, an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of DHS. But with Democrats fiercely opposed, GOP leaders didn’t want to risk a pre-election government shutdown, so they decided to push the fight until after the midterm elections.

The CR also temporarily reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act through Dec. 7.

The landmark legislation, which expires Sept. 30, supports federal programs and grants designed to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It was first signed into law in 1994 and has been reauthorized ever since.

But Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over which version to bring to the floor this year. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, teamed up with Democratic leaders this summer to introduce an enhanced VAWA bill, which includes new provisions to expand housing protections, provide economic security assistance for victims and strengthen judicial and law enforcement tools.

Some House Republicans, however, would prefer to pass an unaltered, six-month extension of VAWA so that they would have more time to write their own version of the bill. “A six-month extension provides Congress the opportunity to hold hearings and make improvements to VAWA without threatening critical existing programs,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said in a statement. “I urge House Leadership to bring up this extension for a vote immediately.”

Democratic and Republican negotiators are also still working to hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, which authorizes a number of key food and agriculture programs that are set to expire at the end of the month.

The House-passed version of the legislation would impose tougher work requirements on participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). But conferees have struggled to reach a compromise, with Democrats staunchly opposed to the food stamp changes.

Conaway swatted down the idea that a short-term farm bill may be necessary, but he also said that he wouldn’t vote for the farm bill if it doesn’t overhaul SNAP. Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she was committed to reaching a bipartisan agreement before the end-of-the-month deadline.

“The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill that got 86 votes – the most ever,” she tweeted after Trump singled her out. “I’m not letting politics distract me from working across the aisle to finalize a good bill that will deliver certainty for farmers and families in Michigan and across the country.”

One issue that has stalled negotiations is the desire by some senators to include provisions providing uniformity across the country when it comes to meal and rest breaks for truck drivers.

Democrats, who in the past have fought to keep similar provisions out of other bills, worry that it will deny states the ability to require paid meal and rest breaks for truckers.

“The clock is ticking... It's getting tough," Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Politico this past week. “On the other hand, maybe we could have a really short extension because [the Senate is] going to be in all October… And we get it done in November.”

So, we will see. It is almost unimaginable that during this ultra-polarized, pre-election moment many of the necessary compromises can be hammered out – especially as the administration is poised to impose still more tariffs in the ongoing trade war, a key concern for producers that certainly bears watching as the trade debate intensifies and Congress defers, Washington Insider believes.

Want to keep up with events in Washington and elsewhere throughout the day? See DTN Top Stories, our frequently updated summary of news developments of interest to producers. You can find DTN Top Stories in DTN Ag News, which is on the Main Menu on classic DTN products and on the News and Analysis Menu of DTN’s Professional and Producer products. DTN Top Stories is also on the home page and news home page of online.dtn.com. Subscribers of MyDTN.com should check out the US Ag Policy, US Farm Bill and DTN Ag News sections on their News Homepage.

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