By Bobby Frederick, NGFA Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy
The Week that Was: The House focused on passing legislation aimed at reducing regulatory burdens in the financial services and energy sectors. The Senate approved judges, as well as U.S. trade representative appointees, including Gregg Doud, who will serve as the chief agriculture negotiator. President Trump imposed new tariffs on imported steel (25 percent) and aluminum (10 percent), but exempted Canada and Mexico for the time being.
On the Horizon: The clock is ticking toward the March 23 deadline for Congress to enact a $1.3 trillion “omnibus” bill that combines 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2018, which ends Sept. 30. The House may act as early as March 14 and the NGFA is closely monitoring and managing efforts to help Congress fix Section 199A and restore the competitive balance that has been altered in this provision’s wake. Once March 23 comes and goes, Congress will be back working in their home states and districts until the week of April 9 following its spring recess.
Farm Bill – Ready, Set, Go?: A favorite pastime of many who work on agricultural policy is speculating when each chamber of Congress will consider its respective farm bills. The House Agriculture Committee potentially could mark-up its version as early as the week of March 19. Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., this week expressed a desire for his committee to pass its farm bill in April. Like many things, this is subject to change.
No matter the timing, the NGFA will be focused on reforms to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including incentives to prevent good, productive farmland from being idled, reforming out-of-whack rental rates so beginning farmers can better access land, and stifling whole-farm enrollments.
Infrastructure at this Juncture: The NGFA participated in a congressional fly-in organized by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Association of General Contractors on the importance of Congress coming together and passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Trump administration released its infrastructure principles in February, which included its desire to leverage $1.3 trillion in state, local and private sector dollars from $200 billion in federal spending. This week, Senate Democrats released their infrastructure plan that featured $1 trillion in federal infrastructure spending, including $30 billion for inland waterway locks, dams and ports, which would be financed primarily by rescinding several provisions of the 2017 Republican-passed tax law. It is difficult to imagine when or if these efforts will sync up, but NGFA will continue to advocate for increased federal resources to rehabilitate the U.S. inland waterways transportation system as well as opposition to tolling and lockage fees.
State Affiliates and NGFA – an Effective One-Two Punch: The Michigan Agri-Business Association was in Washington this week for its March Leadership Group Fly-In. The NGFA appreciated the opportunity to brief this valued state affiliate member with the latest on Section 199A, trade, the farm bill and infrastructure policy. NGFA is pleased to conduct such briefings any time one of its State/Regional Affiliates are in Washington.