Agriculture is getting a triple boost this week on the trade, spending and tax fronts, as Congress wraps up business for the year this week. The House Ways and Means Committee kicked things off this week by sending to the full-House, the long-awaited USMCA, worth an estimated $2 billion in new U.S. farm exports. The House is expected to pass the USMCA implementing bill later in the week, followed by Senate passage in the New Year.
Separately, catch-all spending legislation to keep the government open includes key tax extenders long-sought by agriculture.
“We’ve restored the one-dollar-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit, and we did it retroactively to its expiring on December 31, 2017,” Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley. “And we’ve covered ’18, ’19, and it’s extended through ‘2022.”
A short-line railroad tax break important to Ag is also extended. And, there’s permanent repeal of the health insurance tax, saving those who buy insurance on the individual market an average of $500 a year.
Meanwhile, USDA spending is increased $451 million above last fiscal year, with $23.5 billion for non-mandatory programs.
“The bill includes a provision that retains $1.5 billion in disaster relief funding,” said American Farm Bureau budget adviser R.J Karney. “This funding was set to expire at the end of this calendar year. The bill also includes $550 million for the USDA “Reconnect Program.” This is a critical program that provides additional funding for broadband deployment to farmland, ranch land, and also, rural communities.”
In addition, $10 million is added to a farmer and rancher stress management program.
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