Omnibus addresses major issues for ag producers
Many agriculture concerns were addressed this week in the 2018 fiscal year appropriations bill, and in many cases, the funding favored farmers and ranchers. The bill totals $1.3 trillion, including $23.3 billion allocated to Agriculture Appropriations Bill.
A vote is expected in the House today and in the Senate on Friday, although there is speculation that there might have to be a short continuing resolution if any senators object to the bill.
The omnibus is being applauded by associations such as National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) primarily for the six-month delay of the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate for livestock haulers.
The ELD mandate is pushed to September 30, 2018, at which time some livestock haulers, farmers, ranchers, and for-hire haulers of agriculture commodities may be required to keep an electric log. The delay allows the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMA) more time to educate livestock haulers, including clarifying already-released guidelines for those hauling horses with the intent win money. The pushback also allows for time to work on the Hours of Service associated with the ELD and the understanding of it.
North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp said in a press release, “After requesting this delay in December and receiving several short-term extensions, it is great news for our agriculture industry that implementation of ELD rules for livestock and insect haulers has been pushed to the end of September. This delay is the action I asked Congress for, and I’ll continue to push DOT to provide clear guidance for North Dakotans who haul livestock, perishable produce, or rodeo horses who are concerned about the impact these rules may have on their bottom line and way of life.”
Two bills, Senate Bill S. 2421, known as the FARM Act, and HR 5275, known as the Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions (ACRE) Act, accomplish something that has been concerning livestock producers, excluding livestock producers from being required to report emissions in the Environmental Protection Agency’s livestock emission reporting mandate CERCLA (Comprehensive Response, Compensation, and Liability Act).
Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs with NCBA, said, “NCBA has been urging affiliates and members to support stand-alone legislation in the House and Senate that would also exempt agricultural producers from CERCLA reporting requirements. Passage of the omnibus spending bill would achieve the same goal.”
“Both of the victories secured in this bill offer commonsense solutions to over-regulation. USCA’s Transportation Committee will utilize the one-year delay to continue its work with the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMCSA) and Congress to secure needed flexibility for livestock haulers in the restrictive Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules,” USCA’s Executive Vice President Kelly Fogarty said in a press release. “USCA worked to avoid yet another EPA overreach on the industry and we will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to secure successful outcomes on both of these issues.”
The omnibus is also funding wildfire suppression efforts, which is of great importance to the many ranchers throughout the nation devastated by wildfires last year and already this year.
“The omnibus spending plan released last night contains a number of our priorities at USDA…,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a press release. “Additionally, improving the way we fund wildfire suppression will help us better manage our forests. If we ensure that we have adequate resources for forest management, we can mitigate the frequency and severity of future fire seasons. Increased support for broadband internet access is in line with Administration goals and will be an important boost as we look to improve the economy in rural America.”
The bill includes more than $685 million toward expanding broadband services in rural areas, approximately $625 million more than the last fiscal year.