House Ag Appropriations Bill could hit Floor by Tuesday

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The full House of Representatives could consider its agriculture appropriations bill as early as tomorrow. The Rules Committee this evening is set to consider the bill’s rule, which outlines how it can be debated and amended.

NAWG and other agriculture organizations are expecting a number of amendment proposals in addition to those included during the Appropriations Committee’s consideration of the bill last week.

One amendment approved by the Committee would reduce the maximum adjusted gross income (AGI) for those qualifying for farm program payments from $750,000 to $250,000. NAWG opposes this and any other effort to reopen the provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill before the writing of the 2012 Farm Bill.

The Appropriations Committee also approved problematic amendments to redirect funds for cotton direct payments to the settlement of a World Trade Organization (WTO) case with Brazil, and then further redirect that settlement money to the Women, Infant and Children program.

Brazil brought the case in question in 2002 and, in 2009, was given authorization to impose retaliation measures worth almost $830 million. In March 2010, Brazil announced it would soon begin imposing countermeasures, but the settlement staved that off until program changes can be made in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Not funding the settlement would expose wheat growers to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade revenue. Brazil is the world’s second largest wheat importer, and its original target list included a scheduled 30 percent tariff on U.S. milling wheat.

Additionally, NAWG anticipates an amendment could be offered during House floor debate to cut funding for foreign market development work done by organizations including U.S. Wheat Associates.

NAWG strongly supports full funding, as authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, which studies show return more than $30 for every $1 invested.

NAWG also continues to have concerns about the level of cuts faced by agriculture research programs through USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Under the Committee budget, research funding is cut 13 percent from FY2011 and 20 percent from FY2010.

On Thursday, NAWG asked its state association leadership to call House Members on these priorities. NAWG is also working with coalition partners to follow developments in the appropriations process.

In other budget-related news:

A bipartisan and bicameral group led by Vice President Joe Biden met this week to continue its negotiations toward a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling while reducing its deficit over the long term. Further meetings are scheduled next week.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate Minority’s whip, said this week that Congress could end up taking multiple votes on smaller debt limit increases. He said his caucus will follow Republicans in the House in demanding $2.4 trillion in cuts for an equivalent amount of debt limit increase – a heavy lift even in the current fiscal environment.

The full Senate could reportedly hold a marker vote on increasing the debt limit sometime soon. The House held such a vote, which is intended to show Members’ sentiment about a bill, last week. The Senate has not yet considered a FY2012 budget resolution, pending the Biden group talks.

Source: National Wheat Growers Association

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