August 2, 2018
One of the basic tasks of Congress is to pass the set of 12 annual spending bills (appropriations) that fund the government and all its many programs and services. The appropriations bills include all spending items other than those that are mandated by Congress and occur automatically. The deadline for Congress to act on appropriations bills is September 30 each year, the last day of the fiscal year, so that the new spending levels can go into effect at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
Despite the agreed upon timeline, Congress has not gotten the appropriations bills done on time since 1996, a drought of over 20 years! This year, however, there is a strong glimmer of hope that as many as eight of the dozen bills might be completed on time.
That glimmer grew stronger this week as the Senate debated and approved four of those 12 bills for FY 2019 as part of what is commonly referred to in DC as a “minibus” bill. We are happy to report that the annual food and agriculture spending bill (funding USDA and FDA primarily) was one of those four, grabbing a seat on the minibus with three other bills that fund Transportation, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, IRS, and many other agencies.
In a bit of an unusual situation, the House of Representatives have passed its own versions of two out of the four bills the Senate put into the minibus. One of those missing is the food and agriculture bill. Hence, the hope is when the House returns from its summer vacation in September it will quickly pass its versions of the agriculture bill as well as its transportation bill. Doing so would allow them to conference all four bills with the Senate, pass the final negotiated bills, and send them to the President for his signature by September 30.
That is not a sure thing. Every indication at this point is the House is on track to pull it off; but the House is in session just 11 days in September, compared to 16 days for the Senate. As such, speed will be of the essence, both in terms of the House getting its bills to the floor and also on the conference coming to quick agreement and not getting bogged down on extraneous policy issues unrelated to appropriations. Such “policy riders” are increasingly the major roadblocks to getting spending bills completed.
We summarized the contents of the Senate agriculture appropriations bill here. There were numerous small amendments approved to the bill this week on the Senate floor, but none that changed any of the details from our previous summary.
Our summary of the provisions of the corresponding House bill as approved by the House Appropriations Committee is available here.
We remain hopeful that the final agriculture appropriations bill for FY 2019 will include the following increases for key sustainable agriculture programs included in the Senate version of the bill:
as well as the following increase for conservation planning assistance in the House version of the bill:
Our chart comparing the two bills can be found here.
Categories: Budget and Appropriations