December 23, 2022
Updated to include news that the House has also approved the bill:
The House voted 225 to 221 along mostly party lines this afternoon to approve the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill previously approved by the Senate. They also approved a one-week extension of government funding through Dec. 30 to give President Biden time to review the bill. He is expected to sign the package, which will fund the federal government through next September.
The Senate voted 68 to 29 in favor of a massive $1.7 trillion spending bill that will keep the government running through next September. It allocates $858 in billion in military spending and nearly $773 billion for domestic programs. Included in the bill are a number of programs that could have significant impacts on agriculture for years to come.
One major bill not included in the spending package was the Affordable and Secure Food Act sponsored by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. His amendment to revise the federal H-2A via program was supported by many agriculture leaders because it would address rapidly increasing wage costs and labor shortages.
The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives issued a statement categorizing the amendment’s demise as a lost opportunity that will threaten the economic survival of farms and ranches across the country.
“Producers will enter the new year facing a continued shortage of skilled workers combined with spiraling wage costs in the H-2A program,” NCFC President Chuck Conner said. “This failure to act will have long-term consequences that will impact agricultural policy for years to come.”
The omnibus package did include funding for the broadly supported Growing Climates Solutions Act. The bill authored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., established a voluntary greenhouse technical assistance and certification program intended to reduce barriers into voluntary environment credit markets for farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners.
Also included was the SUSTAINS Act that allows private sector funds to supplement existing conservation programs.
“Environmental markets and conservation programs have the potential to meaningfully assist dairy producers as they work to meet their 2050 environmental stewardship goals,” National Milk Producers Federations President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act and the SUSTAINS Act will strengthen these important tools.”
USDA was allocated $3.74 billion for agriculture disaster relief, including just under $500 million for livestock producers. Rice producers will get an additional $250 million to offset increased input costs that market prices have not kept pace with. Cotton producers will get $100 million for pandemic assistance.
The omnibus bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass in time to keep the government running. Some House Republicans have been lobbying their Senate counterparts to delay a vote until January when the GOP takes control of the House. Those calls were largely ignored as Senators from both parties worried that passing a spending bill next year could be even more challenging, putting countless government programs at risk.
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