Continuing Resolution

Clint Bain and Neil Burnette, Legislative Co-Chairs
December 11, 2020

The House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have both passed a stopgap spending bill which the President is expected to sign late Friday.  This CR will fund the government for one week, setting a new deadline of December 18.  Congressional Leaders are optimistic that they can complete work on an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund all sectors of the government prior to the proposed new deadline of December 18.

Your Legislative team will continue to monitor the situation over the next several days and inform membership if there are any major unexpected developments.

NASCOE Legislative Update – November 25, 2020

This legislative update provides our NASCOE family with information about hot topics as we enter the holiday season.

Federal Appropriations

Currently, the government is funded through December 11, 2020.  It is likely that Congress will extend the continuing resolution again before enactment of any new law.  We do not expect any government shutdown as Congress approaches the December deadline.

The House of Representatives has approved their Fiscal Year 2021 Agriculture Appropriations bill.  Following election day, the Senate released draft bills and reports allowing the two bodies to begin negotiating any final product. 

The House provides significant increases for FSA Salaries and Expenses and continues previous law provisions related to both employees and county office closures. The below information highlights important funding levels for both the House and Senate proposals.

Fiscal Year 2021 Proposed Funding Levels

FSA Business Center:

FY 2020 EnactedProposalsProposed FY 2021 vs
FY 2020 Enacted
$280,186,000House – $292,852,000House – + $12,666,000
 Senate – $293,057,000Senate – + $12,871,000

FSA Salaries and Expenses:

FY 2020 EnactedProposalsProposed FY 2021 vs
FY 2020 Enacted
$1,414,214,000House – $1,446,437,000House + $32,223,000
 Senate – $1,434,279,000Senate+ $20,065,000

2020 Election

While not yet official, we believe President-elect Biden will be sworn in next January as the 46th President of the United States. 

The election results have set off a scramble for cabinet level posts and numerous political appointments.  According to our contacts, the Secretary of Agriculture position is a race between former Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH).  These individuals know the importance of our organization and the role we play in delivering farm programs. We were pleased this summer when Congresswoman Fudge invited NASCOE’s President to lead a roundtable discussion regarding the need for additional County Office workers. We will keep you all updated as the transition team announces USDA political appointments.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats continue to watch their majority shrink.  At this point, the Democratic Party will control the body by about 13 seats.  This is a decrease from the 33-seat majority during the 116th Congress.  An important decision will come soon when Democrats choose who will lead the House Committee on Agriculture.  The race for chairmanship is between Congressman David Scott (D-GA) and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA).  Today, Congressman Scott is considered the favorite and will likely be chosen the first week of December.

In the Senate, Republicans are defending two Georgia seats that most believe will remain in the Republican column.  If the two senators are re-elected on January 5th, Republicans will control the 52 – 48 Senate.  With Senate Pat Roberts (R-KS) retiring, we expect Senator John Boozman (R-AR) will be chosen as Chairman for the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Protecting Employees from Surprise Taxes Act of 2020, S. 4810

NASCOE sent a letter to Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) supporting legislation allowing federal employees to opt out of the payroll tax deferral. The legislation would simply allow employees to determine how the collection of taxes impacts their individual financial status. We have heard from employees preferring to not delay the tax bill until next year. This legislation provides the flexibility that would allow employees the opportunity to make the best decision based on their need for additional take home pay.

Conclusion

Please do not hesitate to reach out to our legislative team should you need additional information.

Our entire NASCOE Legislative Team would like to wish you all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Continuing Resolution Vote

Clint Bain and Neil Burnette
NASCOE Legislative Co-Chairs
September 23, 2020

By a vote of 359 to 57, last night the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan stopgap continuing resolution to keep the government open through December 11, 2020.

The bill provides 30 billion in funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation to replenish depleted funds. Also included in the measure was nearly 8 billion for a variety of food nutrition assistance including funding to feed children affected by the pandemic that normally receive school lunches.

The deal was worked out between House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. The Senate is expected to schedule a vote on the bill prior to funding expiring on September 30th. The White House has indicated that President Trump will sign the bill.

USDA announces details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

By Hunter Moorhead, Legislative Consultant

On April 17, 2020, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that USDA will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities to fund the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The program includes two major elements.  Secretary Perdue provided the following details about the program aimed at assisting farmers and ranchers as they struggle from the effects of the pandemic:

$16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers: funded using the $9.5 billion emergency program in the CARES Act and $6.5 billion in Credit Commodity Corporation (CCC) funding. The program will provide direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.

  • $9.6 billion for the livestock industry
    • $5.1 billion for cattle
    • $2.9 billion for dairy
    • $1.6 billion for hogs
    • $3.9 billion for row crop producers
    • $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers
    • $500 million for other crops

Producers will receive a single direct payment determined using two calculations:

  • Price losses that occurred January 1-April 15, 2020. Producers will be compensated for 85% of price loss during that period.

  • Second part of the payment will be expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters and will cover 30% of expected losses.

  • The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. Qualified commodities must have experienced a 5% price decrease between January and April.

  • USDA is expediting the rule making process for the direct payment program and expects to begin sign-up for the new program in early May and to get payments out to producers by the end of May or early June.

$3 billion in purchases of agriculture products: including meat, dairy and produce to support producers and provide food to those in need. USDA will partner with local food and regional distributors to deliver food to food banks, as well as community and faith-based organizations to provide food to those in need.  USDA will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to be distributed by these partner organizations to those in need.

USDA will also utilize other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need:

  • USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.

  • The FFCRA and CARES Act provided an at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases. The use of these funds will be determined by food bank need and product availability.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the (CARES Act)

Neil Burnette and Clint Bain, Legislative Committee Co-Chairs

In response to the national crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has passed a massive stimulus package assisting both businesses and individuals. The stimulus package will impact the Farm Service Agency and our NASCOE membership.

Below is a brief summary of these provisions:

  • The bill provides $3 million for hiring temporary staff and paying for overtime expenses at the Farm Service Agency to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. 
  • The bill includes a $14 billion boost in funding authority for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. 
  • The legislation provides $9.5 billion for assisting livestock operations, including dairy farmers, as well as fruit-and-vegetable (specialty) crop producers. Farmers who sell directly to farmers markets, schools and restaurants would also be eligible for aid.
  • The bill allows the Secretary of Agriculture to extend the term of a marketing assistance loans for any commodity to 12 months.  The authority will expire September 30th, 2020.
  • The stimulus package provides payments to individuals based on your 2018 or 2019 adjusted gross income. The maximum amount you can receive is $1,200, or if married filing jointly, $2,400 per couple. That amount phases out for single filers with an AGI between $75,000 and $99,000, joint filers with an AGI between $150,000 and $198,000 and heads of household with an AGI between $112,500 and $146,500. Those who qualify for the $1,200 credit will also receive an additional $500 for each qualifying dependent 16 years old or younger. The stimulus money is technically a tax credit for 2020 that will be paid out, in advance, as soon as possible.  Individuals with direct deposits established with the IRS could see these deposits within a couple of weeks.

The Legislative team has been closely following this process and we will monitor how the department responds to these opportunities as a result of the increased funding.  We will provide additional information as it becomes available.