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Farm-Aid Not Included in House Short-Term Spending Measure, as Funding Deadline Approaches

September 24, 2020

Wall Street Journal writers Kristina Peterson and Jesse Newman reported in Tuesday’s paper that, “The House was expected to move Tuesday to pass a spending bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 11 but without farm-aid funds sought by the White House.

“The bill, introduced Monday by House Democrats, sparked frustration in the GOP-controlled Senate. Partisan tension is running high after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he would move to swiftly fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death Friday of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 1.

The Journal writers explained that, “[House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.)] and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had agreed earlier this month to pass a short-term spending bill devoid of any contentious measures, referred to as ‘clean‘ on Capitol Hill. But the bill became controversial Monday when Democratic leaders opted not to include a request from the White House to replenish early a program President Trump has tapped as aid to farmers.

“Negotiators had been discussing pairing an infusion of farm-aid funds with a provision sought by Democrats to extend a program expiring at month’s end for families of school-age children, according to aides from both parties. The program enables families to buy groceries, replacing the free or reduced-price meals they would have received at school. But the spending bill released Monday left out both.”

Peterson and Newman added that, “The White House had requested $21 billion for the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp., or CCC, a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes. It permits borrowing as much as $30 billion from the Treasury to finance its activities.

“Democrats said they had concerns over replenishing a program if that meant giving President Trump a blank check to use for political purposes after he announced more aid for farmers at a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week.”

The Trump administration has tapped the CCC to help finance trade relief for farmers as well as the first round of coronavirus-related aid to farmers. However, Congress included some funding to reimburse it in previous relief legislation passed in March,” the Journal article said.

Politico writers Caitlin Emma and John Breshahan noted on Monday that, “Democrats have opposed throwing money at a problem that they believe Trump created through his trade policies, and in exchange, they have wanted at least $2 billion to help families with school-aged children buy groceries during the pandemic.”

Emily Cochrane explained in Tuesday’s New York Times that, “Because Congress has failed to reach agreement on the dozen annual spending bills required to fund the federal government, a stopgap bill is necessary to avoid a shutdown. Republicans and Democrats had been nearing agreement on such a measure on Friday before the aid to farmers emerged as a sticking point.”

USDA- Economic Research Service Webinar: Farm Income and Financial Forecasts (September 2, 2020).

And Washington Post writer Erica Werner pointed out on Monday that, “Although a large portion of the federal budget — including programs such as Medicare and Social Security — runs on autopilot, funding for multiple government agencies and programs must be renewed annually by Congress.”

Nonetheless, Bloomberg writers Erik Wasson and John Fitzpatrick reported on Monday that, “Both parties indicated they wanted to avoid a government shutdown just weeks before the election.

“‘We do prefer additional farm aid in the CR. Most of all we want a clean CR, keep the government open,’ Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, told reporters Monday.

“Pelosi said on ABC’s ‘This Week’ program Sunday that ‘none of us has any interest in shutting down government.’”

The Bloomberg article also noted that, “Senate Republicans from farm states pushed for the $30 billion to replenish funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp., a government-owned entity that aims to stabilize farm income. Trump announced $13 billion in new aid to farmers, drawing from the CCC, at a rally in Wisconsin on Thursday, and the corporation had already projected an increase in demand for agriculture-risk coverage, price-loss coverage and marketing-assistance loans.”

Note that Tweets from Congressional reporters Tuesday morning indicated that the planned vote on the Continuing Resolution (CR) would be delayed as discussions continue:

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News