House passes CR with CCC provision as Ag committee members spar
The House Sept. 19 passed, on a bipartisan 301 to 123 vote, a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government through Nov. 21 and includes a provision known as an anomaly that will allow the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation to make payments to farmers, including Market Facilitation Payments to make up for export sales lost in the trade wars.
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., told reporters that a provision requiring the Agriculture Department to report to Congress on the trade aid program had been negotiated between the House leadership and USDA officials.
The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pass it quickly and send it on to President Donald Trump. The bill covers the period from the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 through Nov. 21, and Congress will be under pressure to finish normal appropriations bills by that time.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., had initially left the CCC anomaly out of the bill but under pressure from Democrats and Republicans put it back in.
In a statement, Lowey did not mention the CCC provision but noted that the resolution ensures the Agriculture Department can operate rural water and waste loan programs.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said, “Thanks to the Speaker (Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.) and the rest of House Democratic leadership for ensuring that farmers can have the certainty, this assistance will continue. The call for more transparency in this program is a good one, and I appreciate their willingness to ensure that help gets out the door in a timely manner to the farmers who need it, while at the same time enabling the taxpayer to see where those funds are going.”
House Agriculture ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said in a news release, “It’s ironic that as news was released about the budget deal, some are implying that House Democratic leadership is somehow to be thanked, apparently for failing to follow through on the threat to do serious harm to rural America. That’s akin to Texans thanking Santa Anna for making Texas a Republic. The good news is the Democrats failed in their effort to use our hard-working farm and ranch families as pawns in their obsessive vendetta against the president.”
House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Filemon Vela, D-Texas, tweeted in response, “Our caucus doesn’t need to be lectured by a racist Christian pretender who led the effort to starve America’s poor. Every Democratic member of this committee championed the efforts to protect MFP in this week’s CR negotiations.”
Late Sept. 19, Politico reported that Vela said, “He hasn’t talked to me yet — but I can’t wait until he tries to.”
When a Politico reporter showed Conaway the tweet, he indicated that he had not seen it before and said, “So he’s anti-rural America as well? All I said was that rural America and production agriculture has been held hostage and taken as a pawn by Democratic leadership,” he added. “If that’s untrue, I’d be happy to have that conversation; but it is true, so I’m not sure what he got mad about.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democratic freshman from Virginia, noted that the MFP program was included in the CR and that she had called on appropriations negotiators to include it.
“As the administration continues to engage in prolonged trade wars, central Virginia producers are feeling the sting of market instability — and they continue to express their concerns about the prospect of losing long-term relationships with their buyers abroad. At this moment of great uncertainty in the farm economy, blocking trade aid is the wrong move,” Spanberger said. “I’m encouraged that House appropriators heeded the calls of House Agriculture Committee members to continue MFP payments. As central Virginia crop and livestock producers continue to suffer due to misguided trade policies, I’ll keep fighting for ways to keep our district’s farms afloat, sustain our rural communities, and expand access to global markets.”