House passes appropriations packages including ag bill |

House passes appropriations packages including ag bill

-The Hagstrom Report

The House today passed two appropriations packages that will fund the government through Sept. 30, 2020.

The Washington Post reported that the vote on the national security package was 280-138. The vote on the domestic agencies, which included the agriculture appropriations bill, was 297-120.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week and send the package on to President Donald Trump for his signature before the current continuing resolution funding the government expires on Friday.

The domestic legislation included an extension of the biodiesel tax credit.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition praised the bill for “providing discretionary support for several critical programs – including two new programs, the Local Agriculture Market Program and Farming Opportunity Training and Outreach program.”

NSAC said, “In particular, we would like to thank appropriations committee members and congressional leadership for working together to find common ground on the Value Added Producer Grant program, a subprogram of LAMP. VAPG received $12 million in discretionary support out of a total $17.4 million provided to LAMP. VAPG has consistently delivered unparalleled support for farmers and food entrepreneurs, and provided taxpayers an excellent return on their investment by helping to spur job creation and economic revitalization in communities across the country. In addition to LAMP and FOTO, several other key farm programs also received increased discretionary funding, including the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, and Conservation Technical Assistance program.

“One of the few notable disappointments in this bill, however, is the lack of any additional discretionary support for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. SARE is the nation’s only farmer-driven research program and has driven innovation in research and agriculture for over 30 years. NSAC looks forward to continuing to work with our allies in Congress to ensure strong support for SARE going forward.”

The Food Marketing Institute said it was disappointed that the bill “missed an important chance to fix a technical error in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, also known as ‘the retail glitch.’”

Andy Harig, vice president of tax, trade, sustainability and policy development for FMI, said, “Since 2017, many qualified improvements to grocery stores and supermarkets have been put on hold due to a drafting error in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that makes these investments more expensive than before tax reform. The drafting error actually increases costs and discourages companies from making these types of investments, which affects economic activity in communities and impacts customer experience. We have paid an extraordinary political price on this issue that impacts every business improvement plan across all congressional districts.”

The National Rural Electric Co-operative Association praised the bill for including:

▪ The RURAL Act, which ensures that co-ops that accept government grants for storm restoration or broadband are not at risk of losing their tax-exempt status.

▪ The SECURE Act, which will lower the premiums that electric co-ops pay to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. for low-risk defined benefit pension plans.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson said, “This package preserves the fundamental nature of the electric cooperative business model and will save electric co-ops tens of millions of dollars each year. Moreover, it protects co-op members from unfair increases in their electric rates and provides certainty to co-ops that leverage federal and state grants for economic development, storm recovery and rural broadband deployment.”

Matheson expressed gratitude to Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Tina Smith, D-Minn., along with Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and Adrian Smith, R-Neb., for “shepherding this bill through Congress.”

NRECA explained, “To maintain their tax-exempt status, co-ops may receive no more than 15% of their income from non-member sources. Historically, government grants were considered contributions to capital, not income. But a glitch in the 2017 tax law inadvertently categorized grants as non-member revenue, threatening to push co-ops beyond the 15% threshold. The RURAL Act makes it clear that government grants will not threaten a co-op’s tax-exempt status.”

Matheson said the SECURE Act was important because “electric co-op pension plans pose nominal risk of default, yet co-ops continue to pay PBGC premiums as if they were Fortune 500 companies with higher risk profiles. I applaud the House for recognizing these important differences and passing this bill to save electric co-ops more than $30 million annually.”