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POLICY WATCH

Congress Returns Post Election to Long To-Do List

By Jordan D. Dux, Sr. Director of National Affairs

While vote counting continues in some parts of the country, the final leadership picture in both the House and the Senate continue to clear up with each passing day. While the overall outcome is a bit different than some expected, Republicans will still take over leadership of the House of Representatives with control of the Senate in hands of Democrats regardless of the outcome of the run-off in Georgia. As of the writing of this piece it appears that Kevin McCarthy will be the next Speaker of the House, yet there will likely be some fireworks before that final vote takes place early next year. House Democrats also had a significant development with Speaker Pelosi’s announcement this week that she would leave the leadership after over 20 years. Over in the Senate, Chuck Schumer will likely remain as the Majority Leader and Mitch McConnell just won reelection as the leader of the Senate Republicans after being challenged by Florida Senator Rick Scott. Again, things will be solidified once the 118th Congress gavels into session in early January.

But we’re not done with the 117th Congress yet, and a long list of items that need to be accomplished before the end of the year greeted lawmakers as they returned to Washington this week. At or near the top of that list is to find a path forward on an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the rest of the 2023 fiscal year. At this time, only a continuing resolution is keeping the government funded at FY2022 levels until December 16. Any Democratic hopes of combining a funding bill with a debt ceiling increase are all but dead. We’ll have more on all of this in the weeks ahead before the end of the year.

From an ag policy standpoint, one large item Congress needs to move forward would be the approval of Alexis Taylor as USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Doug McKalip as the U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator. It is no secret we’ve been highly disappointed with the Biden administration’s lack of progress on virtually anything that has to do with expanding trade. However, approving these two nominees would at least provide a small shot in the arm to at least get a few traffic cops in place to help farmers and ranchers on the international trade front. While Democrats are hoping to push a number of judicial nominees during the last days of this legislative session, hopefully the approval of these two qualified nominees will also find their place on the Senate’s To-Do List.

NEFB Signs onto Coalition Letter Asking Congress to Preserve Crop Protection Products

In a letter addressed to the Republican and Democratic leaders in both the House as well as the Senate, a coalition of 332 state and national organizations asked for Congress to push back on attempts to limit the availability and use of crop protection products. Nebraska Farm Bureau was a cosigner of the letter. “We write to express our great concern with recent misinterpretations of long-standing policy regarding the regulation and labeling of pesticide products, as some states have begun to regulate pesticides in a manner contradicting decades of scientific guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lack of certainty on EPA-approved, science-based nationwide labels will erode access to current and future pesticides, threatening crops and grower incomes, conservation practices, public health, vital infrastructure, and ultimately raise food prices for families amidst record-high inflation.”

Celebrate Election Night Wins with Nebraska Farm Bureau, Meet Governor-elect Jim Pillen

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (NEFB-PAC) will be hosting a welcome reception/fundraiser on Sunday, December 4 to kick off the NEBF Annual Meeting and Convention.  This event will be headlined by Governor-elect Jim Pillen along with many other elected leaders and friends of Farm Bureau. This will be an opportunity for our members to celebrate many of the political wins Nebraska Farm Bureau saw this election cycle. Meet with Farm Bureau endorsed candidates and help us begin the important process of expanding our political success in future election cycles.

Members will have the chance to enjoy a casual event with elected officials, have their picture taken with Governor-elect Pillen, bid on a wonderful, guided deer hunt in the Sandhills, and much more.

Nebraska Farm Bureau is the state’s leading advocacy organization for its largest industry and increasing the prominence of the Nebraska Farm Bureau PAC will allow the continued success, growth, and prominence of Nebraska agriculture in local, state, and federal policy.

USDA Announces Additional Emergency Relief Through the Emergency Relief Program (ERP)-Phase 2 and a New Program, Pandemic Assistance Revenue Protection (PARP)

USDA announced plans for additional assistance to producers to help offset crop and revenue losses from crop years 2020 and 2021. The assistance comes from the much-anticipated ERP-Phase 2 and a new program PARP to deal with revenue losses from COVID-19. ERP is authorized under the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, which includes $10 billion in assistance to agricultural producers impacted by wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms and other eligible disasters experienced during calendar years 2020 and 2021.

Producers who are eligible for assistance through ERP Phase One have until Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, to contact FSA at their local USDA Service Center to receive program benefits.  Going forward, if any additional ERP Phase One prefilled applications are generated due to corrections or other circumstances, there will be a 30-day deadline from the date of notification for that particular application.

PARP is authorized and funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. To be eligible for PARP, an agricultural producer must have been in the business of farming during at least part of the 2020 calendar year and had a certain threshold decrease in allowable gross revenue for the 2020 calendar year, as compared to 2018 or 2019. Exact details on the calculations and eligibility will be available when the forthcoming rule is published. ERP-Phase Two and PARP will use revenue information that is readily available from most tax records. FSA encourages producers to have their tax documents from the past few years and supporting materials ready, as explained further below. Producers will need similar documentation to what was needed for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Phase Two, where a producer could use 2018 or 2019 as the benchmark year relative to the disaster year.

In the coming weeks, USDA will provide additional information on how to apply for assistance through ERP Phase Two and PARP. In the meantime, producers are encouraged to begin gathering supporting documentation including:

  • Schedule F (Form 1040); and
  • Profit or Loss from Farming or similar tax documents for tax years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 for ERP and for calendar years 2018, 2019 and 2020 for PARP.

 Producers should also have, or be prepared to have, the following forms on file for both ERP and PARP program participation:

  • Form AD-2047, Customer Data Worksheet (as applicable to the program participant);
  • Form CCC-902, Farm Operating Plan for an individual or legal entity;
  • Form CCC-901, Member Information for Legal Entities (if applicable); and
  • Form AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification.
NEFB State Legislative Policy Committee Reviews Proposed Policies

Nebraska Farm Bureau State Legislative Policy Committee (SLPC) met all day on Thursday, November 17 to review and advise on proposed state and federal policies. This annual process is the result of policies submitted by county Farm Bureaus and the policies from this meeting will be heard and debated during Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting Delegate Session on Dec.6.

State level topics of interest included education funding, ground water quality, brand law, and rural economic development. On the federal side, carbon markets, fertilizer and pesticide regulation, and the next Farm Bill took centerstage.

The SLPC is a great way for Nebraska Farm Bureau members to have a direct impact on the policy that NEFB advocates for every day. If you’re interested in serving on the Committee, please contact Whittney Kelley on the Public Policy Team at whittneyk@nefb.org.

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