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Federal spending bill addresses multiple farm issues

Georgia Farm Bureau


On March 23, President Donald Trump signed the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which extends funding for the federal government through Sept. 30. The bill includes several key agricultural provisions.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the bill amends the cooperative tax deduction (Section 199A) to restore balance to commodity markets and re-establish fairness between cooperative and non-cooperative farmers. Section 199A, part of the tax reform bill passed in December, provided tax incentives to farmers who sold their products to cooperatives, creating a competitive imbalance. Language in the omnibus bill corrected this issue.

The bill included $15 million to assist pecan farmers who could not previously access disaster assistance after damage to orchards resulting from hurricanes last fall, according to Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga. 2nd District).

“Many of our pecan growers struck by Hurricane Irma weren’t able to qualify due to the 15 percent [tree] mortality requirement,” Bishop said. “The recent legislation lowers the mortality rate to 7.5 percent and makes it retroactive to 2017. This should open the Tree Assistance Program to many pecan growers.”

The omnibus bill clarifies that air emissions from animal waste at a farm are not applicable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) said farmers and ranchers were never intended to be subject to CERCLA requirements.

In addition, the legislation gives agricultural haulers a reprieve from the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2018. Farm groups, including Georgia Farm Bureau, opposed the ELD mandate, contending it conflicts with animal welfare concerns for haulers transporting livestock and insects.

Other provisions important to agriculture and rural communities include a pilot program related to county-level agricultural risk coverage payments under the farm bill; critical forest management reforms, including allowing the U.S. Forest Service to adjust its cap when its fire-suppression budget goes above the 10-year average; a pilot program to allocate $625 million for broadband service in underserved and unserved areas; and funding for a wide array of federal programs within USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and other departments and agencies.

Roberts’ statement and summary can be read here: http://bit.ly/Robertsagprovisions

A Senate Appropriations summary of funding for agriculture-related programs can be read at http://bit.ly/agappropssummary.