Cochran releases spending bill, Stabenow issues endorsement | TheFencePost.com

Cochran releases spending bill, Stabenow issues endorsement

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has released the summaries and text of the continuing resolution to fund the government and the disaster bill that includes provisions to aid the cotton and dairy industries.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a statement the budget agreement will provide more than $1 billion to support dairy farmers.

"The deal will also return cotton to the commodity safety net and strengthen disaster assistance for livestock and specialty crop producers," Stabenow said.

The bill apparently will make cottonseed eligible for the Price Loss Coverage Program and remove a cap on livestock insurance. Details of the provisions for agriculture are contained in a summary of the disaster bill.

"This is the support that dairy farmers in Michigan and across the country have been waiting for," said Stabenow. "Thanks to our bipartisan efforts in the Senate, dairy farmers will get much needed relief as they recover from tough economic times. I look forward to building on this progress in the 2018 farm bill."

"While other deals have been discussed in the past to provide support for dairy and cotton, none have gone far enough to provide immediate support for struggling dairy farmers," Stabenow's office said in a news release. "Sen. Stabenow worked with Appropriations leaders U.S Sens. Thad Cochran and Patrick Leahy to improve both the dairy and cotton safety nets, and led the effort to provide immediate relief for dairy producers."

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The Senate proposal would fix problems with the old Margin Protection Program, provide a pathway to new, customizable insurance tools, and set the stage for additional improvements in the farm bill, Stabenow's office added.

The statement said that specifically, the proposal would:

» "Make a significant investment for dairy — Invests over $1 billion into the dairy safety net for family dairy farmers.

» Increase affordability — Eliminates or slashes premiums by up to 80 percent for small and medium dairy farms.

» Target those most in need — Waives administrative fees for underserved and beginning farmers, including veterans and young people.

» Make farmer-friendly improvements — Makes the program more responsive to drops in prices and increases in feed costs, and triggers payments more quickly.

» Allow flexibility — Provides farmers with an immediate chance to sign up or change coverage levels for 2018 coverage.

» Create new opportunities for insurance — Removes arbitrary limits on developing new dairy insurance tools in the future, allowing for the creation of customizable dairy risk management tools."

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the bill also includes energy tax extenders.

"We're pleased the Senate agreed to include key energy tax provisions in the latest government funding bill," said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. "These tax credits enable electric cooperatives to keep current and future costs down for consumers by promoting energy efficiency and a diverse fuel mix."

More than 40 percent of cooperatives across the country have used geothermal tax credits to make highly-efficient geothermal heat pumps affordable for their members, NRECA added. These systems can reduce costs for the co-op membership by reducing the need to buy electricity on the market during periods of peak use, the group added.

In addition, NRECA said, "Changes to the nuclear production tax credit (PTC) will extend the deadline by which new nuclear plants must be operating to qualify for the tax credit, and will for the first time extend the value of the PTC to electric co-ops, enabling both cooperatives and municipal utilities to realize cost savings that will be passed on to members."

"While the Treasury Department allocates PTCs to all partners on a pro-rata ownership basis, the not-for-profit cooperative and municipal entities cannot directly use the credits because they are exempt from federal income taxes."