The U.S. Senate will still be at work on Monday because there are a few more pre-holiday tasks ahead. However, it appears there will be no government shutdown as a spending bill was passed Saturday after acrimonious debate. Key part of this spending bill is the short-term funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which will allow the new all-Republican Congress to take up the matter in February in an effort to curb an executive order by President Obama to protect illegal immigrants. There are spending provisions that impact ag, both positively and negatively.
The American Soybean Association detailed those provisions in a media release issued after the Senate vote. The bill designates funding for 11 spending bills, including ag appropriations legislation. Calling it a mixed bag, Wade Cowan, president, ASA, notes the bill "doesn't give us 100% of what we need, but it does recognize a significant number of our priorities by making investments in the projects and programs that soybean farmers use every day."
The bill boosts funding for the Agriculture and food Research Initiative, and the bill includes language would withdraw the EPA's interpretive rule on the Waters of the United States. However, conservation programs take a spending hit with this measure. The bill makes cuts to conservation programs on working lands like the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentive Program. ASA points out those programs have "proven effective in improving soil and water health."
There was some good news on the spending front when it comes to infrastructure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction account for waterways infrastructure got a $514.4 million boost above what the Administration requested. That includes $112 in added funding for Inland Waterways Trust Fund projects.
The bill also will fund the Olmstead lock and dam project with an 85% to 15% cost share between the IWTF and general treasury. Previously that split was 50-50, which would have consumed nearly half of all IWTF dollars.
The omnibus also provides $1.1 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is an increase of $100 million above the previous year. The Corps received a $921 million increase in their Civil Works account and a $47.5 million increase in the Operations & Maintenance account. That's money that can help the Corps in its efforts to maintain operations on the Mississippi River and other inland waterways and make upgrades to the aging infrastructure.
There's also language in the bill directing USDA to establish a path toward a fix on the country-of-origin labeling issue. The World Trade Organization has found the U.S. to be out of compliance with its mandatory requirements.
And in other trade-related areas, the bill funds the Foreign Market Development at its previous $34.5 million level and the Market Access Program at $200 million. The Food for Peace program is funded at $1.5 billion and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program was funded at $192 million.
This bill heads to President Obama's desk for a signature.
The Senate still has work to do including the Tax Extenders bill that would return Section 179 and bonus depreciation to higher levels.