Conway presents CCC, EBT amendment as Hoeven, Stabenow spar
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, today presented an amendment to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation to continue to fund programs that it finances and to continue the Pandemic EBT program to provide payments to families with children who aren’t receiving their regular school meals because schools are closed.
Conaway presented the amendment in online testimony before the House Rules Committee.
Earlier today the House Democratic leadership released the text of the proposed continuing resolution to fund the government from the end of the fiscal year into early December, which did not contain either a replenishment of the CCC or a provision to continue the Pandemic EBT program, which expires Sept. 30.
Republicans blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for taking out the CCC/Pandemic EBT provisions. Conaway noted that the battle over the CCC has occurred before but been resolved in favor of replenishing the CCC so that aid to farmers can continue to flow without interruption or slowdown.
Conaway said that the Democrats are upset with the Trump administration for providing aid to farmers who had lost sales to China and now for making payments to them due to problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said negotiators had made a deal to include the provisions last week, but that Pelosi decided against it, which he said was “terrible” policy and politics and might jeopardize passage of the entire CR.
Conaway also said that he had discussed the situation with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., last week and he and Peterson are in agreement that the CCC and Pandemic EBT provisions should be included in the CR.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., appeared to confirm that Democrats were upset by the expenditures to farmers when he told Conaway, “Some think it is bad policy to use the CCC as a political slush fund.”
House Rules Committee ranking member Tom Cole, R-Okla., noted that the CCC funds programs besides those benefiting farmers directly including coupons for low income people to use at farmers markets.
Cole said that if the committee does not make Conaway’s amendment in order, he will offer it separately.
McGovern dismissed the committee subject to the call of the chair at which time the committee will presumably vote on the rules for debate for the CR and other bills it is considering.
Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., issued very different news releases that seemed to reflect the politics of the moment.
Hoeven said “Congress has regularly provided reimbursement for CCC to allow USDA to carry out vitally important farm bill programs for our farmers and ranchers.”
“The CCC must be reimbursed on time to prevent interrupted or delayed payments at a time when our producers are already challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, bad weather and market challenges,” Hoeven said.
“While House Democrats have objected to this routine CCC reimbursement in the CR, we will continue working with our colleagues to ensure that the CCC is reimbursed and our farmers and ranchers receive the support that Congress has promised. This is vitally important for our farmers and ranchers, but also for every American who benefits every day from the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world.”
Stabenow said, “Farmers have been hurting due to multiple disasters — and those hit the hardest need support from USDA. Whether it’s using USDA dollars to bail out Big Oil or favoring certain farmers over others, the Trump administration has proven they cannot be trusted to distribute payments fairly without additional congressional oversight.”
“Unfortunately, Republicans have refused to add more accountability into the Commodity Credit Corporation funds,” Stabenow said. “Fortunately, USDA does not need an advanced refill in order to meet important farm bill obligations. The department will receive its annual reimbursement In November and it has the resources it needs in the meantime.
“Under current law, unchanged by the continuing resolution, the Commodity Credit Corporation will receive its normal reimbursement in mid-November after filing financial reports for the fiscal year as required by law.
“Congress has provided USDA a total of $44 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation funds this year — and an additional $9.5 billion in direct producer assistance. This will give USDA enough money to spend on farm bill programs through October, if managed appropriately — including additional COVID-19-related disaster programs authorized under the CARES Act. If there are additional needs, the secretary has tremendous flexibility to transfer unspent funds to fully fund farm bill programs.”
Congress needs to pass the CR before the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.
Iowa’s bipartisan congressional delegation today sent Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a letter urging that the CCC provision be included.
Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said in a news release, “I am deeply frustrated that once again Washington is playing games with the vital aid that Iowa’s farmers need as they continue to struggle with the long-term effects of a public health crisis, an economic downturn, a trade war, and recent natural disasters.”
“In the midst of a national public health crisis and recession, the last thing Congress should do is allow the government to shut down — but before that deadline I urge leaders in the House to reverse course and include this vital aid. Congress has ensured the extension of this program for more than 30 years. As Iowa and our nation face overlapping crises, we should not be cutting off the lifeline for our family farmers.”
McConnell tweeted, “House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America.”
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