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Senate Budget Plan Spares Farm Bill

The Republican-controlled Senate Budget Committee plans to approve its fiscal 2018 budget resolution this week. It will open the gate to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years. The resolution, a blueprint for federal spending, foregoes any cuts in farm bill programs, unlike the House package, which seeks a $10 billion cut in food stamps over a decade.

House GOP leaders aim for a floor vote on their budget plan on Wednesday, the same day the Senate committee is expected to clear its package for a floor vote. Congress is months behind schedule for producing a House-Senate budget agreement, nominally due by April 15.

Farm groups and their allies in Congress made long-shot appeals for an increase in funding for the 2018 farm bill but did not persuade Budget Committee leaders in either chamber. The Senate and House Agriculture Committees face a squeeze, with no additional funds. They want to revamp cotton and dairy supports and tweak the subsidy system for grain farmers. Cotton and dairy could easily cost a combined $2 billion a year under proposals made by farm groups.

The House Agriculture Committee is believed to be further along than the Senate panel in assembling material for the new farm bill. Republicans and Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee have asked for estimates of the cost of elements for the farm bill.

As a way of highlighting the prevalence of hunger in the U.S., the antihunger Food Research and Action Center has released interactive maps showing poverty rates and food stamp participation rates by state and congressional district. “Now is not the time to pull the rug from underneath these programs as has been proposed in budgets by the administration and Republicans in Congress,” said FRAC leader Jim Weill.

Senate Budget chairman Mike Enzi, of Wyoming, said his package would reduce spending by $5.1 trillion over the next decade and would require the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Energy and Interior departments, to find $1 trillion in savings. “It is also the first important step in providing Congress with the tools it needs to enact tax reform that will grow America’s economy and strengthen hardworking families and small businesses,” he said. Because the budget resolution includes a provision for tax cuts, a simple majority in the Senate could approve tax-cut legislation, rather than a 60-vote super majority.

The tax-cut package proposed by President Trump and congressional Republicans includes repeal of the estate tax, a longtime goal of farm groups. The groups want to maintain benefits such as cash accounting, lower tax rates on business income, immediate deductibility of business expenses, and stepped-up basis when property values are set for taxation.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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