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After Resolving a Fight Over Farm Payments, House Passes Continuing Resolution

David Lerman and Jennifer Shutt reported on Tuesday night at Roll Call Online that, “The House swiftly passed a stopgap funding measure needed to avert a partial government shutdown in eight days after top congressional leaders reached a deal resolving a fight over farm payments.

“On a lopsided vote of 359-57, the House sent to the Senate a revised continuing resolution that would extend current funding for all federal agencies through Dec. 11.

“The bipartisan pact would restore money for farm payments sought by lawmakers from both parties that House leaders had rejected in an earlier stopgap measure introduced Monday. It also would restore new money for a pandemic-related program funding subsidized meals to children who would normally receive them when schools are open, among other nutrition assistance, Democrats said.”

The Roll Call article pointed out that, “The agreement also contains language [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] said would prevent ‘funds for farmers from being misused for a Big Oil bailout,’ after earlier reports surfaced that the administration has been planning to divert Commodity Credit Corporation funds to refiners.

“‘The last thing the United States needs right now, in the midst of a pandemic, is a lapse in government funding that was set to expire at the end of this month,’ Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said during floor debate.”

Wall Street Journal writers Kristina Peterson and Lindsay Wise reported in Wednesday’s paper that, “The bipartisan agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, reached just hours before the vote, is expected to smooth the bill’s passage in the GOP-controlled Senate and avert a partial shutdown when the government’s funding expires next Thursday.”

The Journal article explained that, “The agreement between Mrs. Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Mr. Mnuchin would add to the spending bill $21 billion sought by the White House for the Commodity Credit Corp., or CCC, a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes that permits borrowing as much as $30 billion from the Treasury to finance its activities. The agreement prohibits any payments from going to fossil fuel refiners and importers, a concern of Democrats, and includes roughly $8 billion in additional nutrition funding.”

“President Trump has tapped the CCC program to finance both trade relief and coronavirus-related aid for farmers, a second round of which he announced at a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week. But the program has traditionally been used to send out payments established under bipartisan farm bills, some of which the Agriculture Department had said could be subject to delays as soon as October.”

Peterson and Wise noted that, “Tuesday night’s deal ended an intensifying partisan battle over the farm aid. Democrats and Republicans had  in their assessment of whether the CCC program would need to be shored up early. The program’s annual replenishment typically takes place in November or December after the CCC submits financial forms and is audited, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“The Agriculture Department said that Covid-19 relief payments pledged by the Trump administration had left the program with only about $2 billion, and that it would be forced to prioritize which farm-bill payments could be made starting in October. Republicans and some Democrats said that any delays in payments could be detrimental to farmers already under pressure from the coronavirus’ effect on the agricultural economy.”

Emily Cochrane reported in Wednesday’s New York Times that, “House Democratic leaders had initially sought to advance the [Continuing Resolution] bill without the Commodity Credit Corporation money. But lawmakers in both parties balked at the omission, arguing that it was a critical resource for farmers across the country and helped fund a series of bipartisan programs. Moderate Democrats who count farmers and agriculture businesses as significant constituencies within their districts lobbied Ms. Pelosi to reconsider.”

“2020 Farm Sector Income Forecast,” September 2020 (USDA-ERS).

Washington Post writer Erica Werner reported on Tuesday night that, “The [Continuing Resolution] deal was negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a chaotic series of events over the past several days. Talks abruptly collapsed late Friday just as a deal appeared within reach, and Pelosi released a partisan bill on Monday that was swiftly rejected by Republicans. But on Tuesday morning, Pelosi and Mnuchin resumed negotiations, and Pelosi announced late Tuesday that they had reached a deal.”

The Post article added that, “At a campaign rally in Wisconsin last week, Trump announced a new package of aid for farmers from the CCC, which he has used in an unprecedented way. Under previous administrations, the CCC was used for much more limited purposes, and some Democrats charge that Trump has essentially turned it into a slush fund.

“But there are also several endangered House Democrats who support the program, including Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, freshman members who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 and now face tough reelection races. Axne and Finkenauer both signed a letter along with Iowa’s two Republican senators, Charles E. Grassley and Joni Ernst, blasting exclusion of the CCC money from the bill Pelosi had released on Monday and declaring, ‘Our farmers should not be used as a bargaining chip for negotiations.'”

And Bloomberg writers Erik Wasson and John Fitzpatrick reported Tuesday that, “Democratic critics have accused President Donald Trump of using the CCC to dole out political favors. The president last Thursday announced he was drawing $13 billion in aid from the CCC to help rural areas, which are important to his re-election prospects. He unveiled the move at a campaign event in Wisconsin, a key battleground state in the presidential election.

Democrats from farm states and those in narrowly divided districts pushed Pelosi to include the farm money. Swing district Representative Cindy Axne of Iowa issued a statement calling for inclusion of the CCC funds and warning about a shortfall for traditional farm subsidies.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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