NASCOE Legislative News — 2020 Appropriations Update

Appropriations Update

Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
December 13, 2019

The Legislative Committee is cautiously optimistic as we announce that the leaders in spending talks announced Thursday afternoon that they have reached a “deal in principle” to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2020, according to House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). A vote in the House will be scheduled for Tuesday. 

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said staff members are working out “a few details.” He and Lowey announced the agreement with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking member of Senate Appropriations, and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), ranking on House Appropriations.

Although this is very positive news and we are hopeful that Congress will be able to accomplish this task, we also acknowledge there are lot of hot topic partisan politics issues swirling in Washington that could derail these plans.  Your Legislative team will keep a close eye on the appropriations process in the coming days and let you know of any major changes.

NASCOE Legislative Flash – Senate Vote on Continuing Resolution

Continuing Resolution Senate Vote
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
November 21, 2019

By vote of 74-20, The U.S. Senate today passed a short-term measure to fund the government until December 20th, buying Washington four more weeks before the threat of another shutdown.  The White House has indicated that President Trump will sign the continuing resolution. 

Since the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have both passed their versions of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, we are hopeful the two draft measures will be finalized in conference prior to the December 20th deadline. 

The NASCOE Legislative Team will continue to monitor the appropriations bill and keep the membership informed of any progress.

NASCOE Legislative Flash Update – November 19, 2019

Continuing Resolution Vote and NASCOE Preparations
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant
November 19, 2019

By a vote of 231 to 192, the House of Representatives today passed the continuing resolution to keep the government open through December 20, 2019.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor statement today that the Senate will pass the continuing resolution and President Trump will sign it.

The Leader also mentioned that talks continue regarding completion of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills.  As a reminder, the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have both passed the Agriculture Appropriations bill.  We are hopeful the two draft measures will be finalized before the December 20 deadline.

Although we have no indication a government shutdown is anticipated, Chris Lary, National Benefits/Emblems Chair, has been taking a proactive role to prepare in case there were to be a furlough.  Many employees have been contacted regarding what worked well last time and what didn’t work so well.  She has complied information in order to help mitigate the impact of a furlough.

The employee checklist for furlough has been reviewed, web links have been viewed and verified and NASCOE is prepared should the need arise to get membership information to assist them.

Please make sure your State President has your current home email address so that you will receive this information timely.

Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020 Hunter Moorehead, Legislative Consultant

Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020
Hunter Moorehead, Legislative Consultant

The House of Representatives and U.S. Senate approved legislation funding the government at current levels through November 21. This allows our employees to continue working without any lapse of federal appropriations.

The bill includes language allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to continue disbursing Commodity Credit Corporation funds for the Market Facilitation Program. This will ensure farmers continue to receive financial assistance.

Our legislative committee is working to educate legislators about the need for additional salaries and expenses funding for the next fiscal year. In addition, Members of Congress continue to highlight FSA’s field office staffing needs and the inability to adequately deliver farm programs.

The agency has completed the new workload analysis and our farmers deserve better customer service. We believe field office staff numbers are short over 2,000 FTEs. The time has come for the USDA to give us the tools necessary to deliver farm programs.

2020 Appropriations Update

2020 Appropriations Update
September 11, 2019
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

On June 25th, the full House voted 227-194 to approve the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture appropriations bill which included an increase in FSA salaries and expenses of 3.8 % or $ 41 million. The Senate has yet to act on any 2020 appropriation measures. Due to this lack of progress, the House is planning to move a continuing resolution next week that will run through November 21st or 22nd, or through December 6th. It appears November 21st or 22nd will the most likely choice, but we are told the decision has not been made yet. At this time, we do not expect that the government will face another shutdown. With an election year coming up, we do not feel that anyone in Congress will have the stomach to add this as an issue for voters to take sides on.

The Senate planned on moving 4 bills this week through subcommittee and full committee appropriations. Democrats met Monday night, and decided they wanted to push back on anticipated allocations in domestic discretionary as well as on some issues important to their base (border wall restrictions, abortion/title X, etc.). There is a divide between members who want to work with the majority and address their concerns through the process (in conference) and those who want to begin fighting on every appropriations bill immediately.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell reiterated on the Sunday news programs his intention is to only pass appropriations bills in the Senate acceptable to the President.

The plan had been to mark up four bills this week (DoD, E&W, LHHS, SFO), four next (Ag, FS, MilCon/VA, THUD), and four the following week (CJS, DHS, Interior, Leg Branch). Chairman Shelby and Senate Republican Leadership hoped to have the first four bills on the Senate floor next week (9/16-9/20). Absent some agreement between Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Leahy and Senate Leadership, the FY 2020 appropriations schedule appears to be moving further down the calendar.

NASCOE fully understands that our members will have concerns, especially considering the events last year. We will continue to closely monitor the appropriations process and will keep membership apprised as new developments arise.

Photos of NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs Clint Bain and Neil Burnette.

NASCOE Legislative Update: May 17, 2019

Hunter Moorhead, NASCOE Legislative Consultant
May 17, 2019

The current work period has proven active for agricultural policy proposals and related oversight hearings. The below provides an update of certain activities that impact FSA programs and employees.

Disaster Assistance — The House of Representatives, on May 10, passed legislation providing assistance for 2018 and 2019 hurricanes, wildfires floods and related disasters. The Senate is currently negotiating with the House to finalize what will become the final legislation. The Senate is expected to debate disaster assistance next week. The House details are summarized below for your review. 

House Passed Bill:

  • $3.005 billion for crop and livestock losses for 2018 and 2019
  • $480 million for Emergency Forest Restoration Program
  • $125 million for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations
  • $500 million for Emergency Conservation Program
  • $600 million for Puerto Rico nutrition assistance
  • $25 million for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands nutrition assistance
  • $5 million for American Samoa nutrition assistance
  • $5 million to study Puerto Rico nutrition assistance provided during 2017
  • Market Facilitation Program payment limitation language:
    • $900,000 and 75% from agriculture AGI payment limitation
    • $125,000 payment cap

Market Facilitation Program — The Secretary of Agriculture recently commented that USDA will provide another round of trade assistance. Our contacts believe the total assistance will range between $15 and 20 billion. It is likely that payment rates for specific commodities will be adjusted compared to 2018. Once available, we will provide additional details. 

Federal Appropriations — The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to consider the fiscal year 2020 bill on Thursday, May 23. Our meetings with Members and staff have been productive but didn’t provide any details about funding levels. Currently, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 11.

H.R. 2478 Federal Retirement Fairness Act — Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) has introduced legislation allowing former temporary employees, in a temporary position after December 31, 1988, to be credited for service under FERS. Unlike previous legislation, this proposal is more favorable by not requiring significant investment by individual employees while giving workers additional credit toward retirement. We will continue to monitor this legislation that could potentially impact many of our members.

President Signs Appropriations Bill to Fund Government

On Friday afternoon, President Trump signed the legislation to avert another government shutdown and ensures the entire federal government is funded through September 30.

The legislation covers seven appropriations bills:

  • Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies;
  • Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies;
  • Financial Services and General Government;
  • Homeland Security;
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies;
  • State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and
  • Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

The legislation, H.J. Res. 31, passed the Senate and House yesterday, February 14, 2019.

Photos of NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs Donny Green and Neil Burnette

Government Funding Update – February 14, 2019

FY19 Appropriations Bill Update

February 14, 2019

Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

The Homeland Security Conference Report (including all the other appropriations bills outstanding for FY 2019) passed the Senate 83-16, and passed the House 300-128 (with 4 not voting) late this evening.

President Trump has signaled that he will sign the bill before the February 15 deadline which will prevent another government shutdown.

NASCOE’s Legislative Team will continue to track the President’s action on the bill and will provide additional updates.

NASCOE Legislative Committee FY19 Appropriations Update – January 8, 2019

January 8, 2019
Appropriations Update

Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

Over the weekend, the White House, led by VP Pence met with Congressional Democratic staff to continue discussions to break the current partial government shutdown.  

The White House gave staff a letter (attached) requesting $5.7 billion in border security funding (notable was a characterization of the border structure funding as “steel barriers”) and $800m in humanitarian assistance funding and an additional $798m in detention beds for the border.

The letter request represents approximately a $7b increase in funding for border security (and other CBP, ICE, etc.) funding related to the border over the FY 2019 request. None of the funding requested in the letter is offset.

Good news: The language and characterization of some of the items is changing, perhaps signaling movement toward common ground (or a compromise reflecting something that both sides can claim victory over). In addition, the inclusion of the $758m for support of 52k detention beds and $800m for urgent humanitarian assistance are included to gain Democratic support.

Less good news: The two sides continue to complain about the other and Congressional Democrats noted both the lack of justification materials and offsets for the spending which doesn’t signal a sense of urgency to resolve the funding impasse.  

The House is scheduled to vote later this week on four individual appropriations measures closely reflecting the FY 2019 Senate passed bills for Agriculture, Financial Services/General Government, Interior, and Transportation/HUD. This is just another version of the strategy the House employed last week – passing spending measures that have previously been moved with broad bipartisan support in the Senate to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Republicans in that body to engage on the government shutdown.

To this point, Senate Majority Leader has indicated the disagreement is between the White House and Congressional Democrats and that he will not put a bill on the Senate floor to fund the remaining agencies of the government unless it has the support of the White House.

The President is scheduled to speak to the nation tonight at 9:00 pm. At this point, we don’t expect the President will be announcing any new agreement leading to reopening the government.  In addition, President Trump will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday visiting with Senate Republicans about the government shutdown and 2019 agenda.

Questions:
With this being a new Congress, are we at risk of losing previously agreed upon appropriations for FSA salaries and expenses? Can we possibly increase previously agreed upon funding levels?

At this point, the Congressional negotiators are following last year’s agreed upon funding levels. Following the shutdown, we will work with FSA leadership to determine how the Department funded operations and the possible negative impact on any available salaries and expenses funding.

Market Facilitation Program:
(Washington, D.C., January 8, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today extended the deadline for agricultural producers to apply for payments under the Market Facilitation Program as provided by the trade mitigation program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The original deadline had been January 15, 2019, but farmers have been unable to apply for the program since the lapse in federal funding caused the closure of USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices at the end of business on December 28, 2018.

NASCOE Legislative Committee FY19 Appropriations Update–January 4, 2019

January 4, 2019
Appropriations Update
Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

Another week has passed without an agreement to reopen the federal government. The President hosted a meeting today with Congressional Leadership to discuss how to fund border security wall and reopen the government. While folks believe progress was made, the government will remain closed into next week. The below text outlines the public conversation between negotiators. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee today introduced disaster legislation. As you all know, we will provide information should the President or Congress announce any deal to reopen the federal government. 

Following Meeting with President Trump

Speaker Pelosi:

  • We will continue talking
  • We cannot resolve the issue until the government reopens
  • We are committed to defending the country and our constitution

Schumer:

  • Don’t hold millions of Americans hostage…open the government and continue the discussions
  • President resisted…said he would keep the government closed for months or years
  • Must open the government

Press – Progress on a dollar figure?

  • Pelosi – we made some progress on the negotiations

Trump:

  • Incredible job growth…factories are moving back to the US…312,000 jobs
  • Productive meeting – Pelosi and Schumer…on the same path
  • Additional meetings this weekend
  • Border Patrol laid out the problem
  • You see people entering where we don’t have walls…officer shot and killed
  • Ports of entry have walls…these people go to the weakest part…some walking
  • Wall in CA is working
  • Built by US Steel Companies
  • Team will work over the weekend
  • We are 5.6 billion…may add other items

Pence:

  • Two weeks into the shutdown…crisis on the border
  • Everyday 2,000 people are stopped trying to enter the country
  • Trump provided the leadership American people expect…committed to build a wall on the southern border
  • Pence, Kushner and Secretary Nielsen will lead the weekend negotiations

McCarthy:

  • Two hour productive meeting
  • President needs border security and the government open
  • We will get this done

House Appropriations Committee
Emergency Disaster Appropriations bill

Title I – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Agricultural Programs — $1.1 billion. Payments for crop and livestock losses due to hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities, or wildfires during 2018. 

Emergency Forest Restoration Program — $480 million.  Assistance to owners of private forests to restore disaster-damaged forests. 

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations — $125 million. Financial and technical assistance to states and local sponsors to protect and restore watersheds up to 250,000 acres.

Rural Community Facilities Program — $150 million.  Grants for facilities to provide health care, education, public safety, and public services to rural communities.

Nutrition Assistance Program for Puerto Rico — $600 million.  Additional funding to continue disaster nutrition benefits in Puerto Rico during its recovery from Hurricane Maria. 

Nutrition Assistance Program for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — $10.2 million.  Additional funding for nutrition benefits in CNMI following typhoons in September and October.

In addition —

  • Provide trade mitigation assistance through the Market Facilitation Program to producers who derive at least 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.

§ Provide trade mitigation assistance through the Market Facilitation Program to producers who derive at least 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.