House passes CR with CCC authorization and nutrition aid |

House passes CR with CCC authorization and nutrition aid

The House late Tuesday passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through December 11 including provisions to allow the Agriculture Department to use the Commodity Credit Corporation to make payments to farmers with no interruption and to fund the Pandemic EBT program, which makes payments to families with children who are not getting their usual free or reduced-price school meals, and to give the Agriculture Department flexibility in implementing nutrition programs.

The House voted on the CR in the evening without much debate after delaying the vote on an earlier version that did not include either the CCC provision or the nutrition provisions.

The vote was 359 to 57, with 56 Republicans voting against it and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., voting present. Fourteen members did not vote.

Rural Democrats and Republicans emphasized that the CR will allow farmers to get both their regular subsidies and the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments, while urban Democrats emphasized the inclusion of the nutrition aid. The CCC is a $30 billion line of credit at the Treasury Department that the Agriculture Department uses to make payments, mostly to farmers. The account needs to be replenished annually.

House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., noted that the CR included $8 billion in nutrition aid and the CCC provision but also a restriction that the Agriculture Department could not use the CCC to provide aid to oil companies, which the Trump administration had considered for companies that did not get waivers from their ethanol obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“From those who grow our food, to those who need increased access to it, the agreement reached tonight ensures that both American farmers and families will have the support they need as we continue to navigate COVID-19,” Bustos said.

“We can’t feed our families without making sure that those who keep our food supply strong – our hardworking farmers – have the assistance they deserve,” Bustos said. “I worked to make sure that this legislation not only includes critical aid for our farmers, but also increases desperately needed accountability for Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds. Today’s legislation stops the administration from diverting aid meant for family farmers to bail out Big Oil.”

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who had introduced an amendment to cover both the CCC and Pandemic EBT provision, but had it ruled out of order by the House Rules committee, said, “Had Congressional Republican leadership not stepped in, USDA would have been forced to shut down critical farm bill programs supported by wide, bipartisan margins in both the House and the Senate. This would have hurt millions and helped nobody.”

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said, “A short-term funding solution is never ideal, but this continuing resolution provides for many of Central Washington’s priorities. I’m glad to see Democrat leadership listened to the outcries from both sides of the aisle and included critical agriculture provisions like mandatory programs for conservation, child nutrition, risk management, and wildfire recovery to help our farmers and ranchers continue their essential work.”

Zippy Duvall, president of the Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a news release: “We applaud [House Agriculture Committee] Chairman [Collin] Peterson [D-Minn.] and Ranking Member Conaway for their leadership, and House lawmakers for putting aside their differences to address the hardships being felt by America’s farmers and ranchers. For years, funding the CCC has been a bipartisan commitment. While we were disappointed it recently became a political flashpoint, we are pleased lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that these funds help to sustain conservation programs and stock America’s pantry.”

Rob Larew, president of the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union, said in an email: “The last thing farmers and rural Americans need right now, on top of the pandemic and everything else, is a government shutdown. We are relieved that the House has come to an agreement on a stopgap funding bill that would prevent such a shutdown, and we hope that the Senate will follow their lead. In particular, we urge them to adopt the House’s provisions that would help hungry families and schoolchildren access food, offer congressional oversight of farm assistance spending, and prevent oil corporations from taking advantage of Commodity Credit Corporation funds.”

It is now up to the Senate to consider the CR.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said, “Democrats have heard our call, and the calls from farm country, to not ignore rural America when funding the government. This bipartisan deal is a step in the right direction to allow agriculture producers across America to continue feeding the country and the world, especially at a time when markets are unpredictable and prices are low.”

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., said, “The CCC provides much-needed support for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, which is why we worked so hard to ensure it is part of this funding legislation. This agreement ensures this regular CCC reimbursement continues and enables USDA to carry out important farm bill programs for our farmers and ranchers.”

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who had raised concerns about the Trump administration’s aid to farmers and proposed aid to oil companies, said, “I’ve always said that we need to help both our farmers and our families. This agreement will take a critical step to address the hunger crisis in our country and ensure millions of children can get the healthy food they need to learn and thrive, not just for a few months, but for the coming year.

“Additionally, we secured greater accountability for farmers and taxpayers by stopping the Trump administration’s misguided plan to give hundreds of millions of dollars of agriculture funds to oil companies. I remain concerned about persistent unfairness in ad hoc USDA payments and I will continue to provide strong oversight to ensure that every dollar is distributed to the farmers who need it the most during these challenging times.”

–The Hagstrom Report

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