Legislative Watch: Congressman David Scott to serve as chairman; bipartisan COVID relief package proposed; 7 days to pass FY ’21 appropriations; U.S. tariffs on China to remain; vaccine for health care workers; organizations ask to renew tax extenders.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

December 4, 2020

6 Min Read
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The House Agriculture Committee will have a new chairman and ranking member in the 117th Congress.

Congressman David Scott (D., Ga.) will serve as chairman. Scott currently is the chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit and a member of the House Agriculture subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.  He will be the first African-American to serve as chairman. 

"I will use this critical opportunity to represent the values of our entire caucus and advance our priorities for trade, disaster aid, climate change, sustainable agriculture, SNAP, crop insurance, small family farms, specialty crops, and rural broadband,” stated Scott after being selected chairman. “The fault lines dividing our rural and urban communities are running deep, and climate change is now threatening our nation’s food supply. As chairman, I will lead the fight to ris up and meet these challenges."

Scott was first elected to Congress in 2002 and has served on the House Agriculture Committee since 2003. He previously served as chairman of the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit as well as Livestock and Foreign Agriculture subcommittees.  Scott has been instrumental in the last three farm bills. He recently received the Friend of Farm Bureau Award from the Georgia Farm Bureau.

Congressman Glenn Thompson (R., Pa.) will be the new ranking member of the Committee.  Thompson currently is the ranking member of House Agriculture subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.  He also serves on the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture and the Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research subcommittees.

"The challenges ahead of us are considerable, but we will continue to put farm families first and ensure our country has the most safe and affordable food supply chain on the planet," Thompson said after being elected ranking member.

He was first elected to Congress in 2008 and comes from a family of dairy farmers.  Thompson has lived in rural Pennsylvania his whole life.

Bipartisan COVID relief package proposed

In an effort to break the impasse between the House and Senate leadership, a bipartisan group of Senate and House members unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus economic relief bill.  The surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths has increased the desire to find a compromise.

The bill includes $228 billion to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, $26 billion for nutrition and agricultural aid, $228 billion for small businesses, aid to restaurants, $82 billion for state and local governments, $45 billion for the transportation industries (airlines, buses, transit, and Amtrak), $35 billion for healthcare including hospitals, $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, and $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution. 

It provides $180 billion for unemployment insurance.  The unemployment benefit would be $300 per week for 18 weeks.  This compares to the $600 per week in the CARES Act passed this past spring. 

Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), a leader of the bipartisan effort, said, “It’s inexcusable for us to leave town and not have an agreement.  It’s not the time for political brinkmanship.” 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in a joint statement that the bipartisan $908 billion proposal “should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”  The House Democrats had been proposing a $2.4 billion aid package.  Senator Majority McConnell (R., Ky.) is proposing a smaller targeted proposal similar to the $519 billion proposal he offered earlier this fall. 

Congress has 7 days to pass FY ’21 appropriations

FY ’21 appropriations, tax extenders, National Defense Reauthorization, and a coronavirus aid package are some of the issues that Congress needs to finish in the next seven days.  The federal government will have to shut down if Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill by midnight next Friday.

Congress also needs to reauthorize Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (LMPR) which expires on December 11. 

U.S. tariffs on China to remain for now

President-elect Joe Biden in an interview with the New York Times said he would not immediately remove the 25% tariffs that President Trump imposed on approximately half of China’s exports to the U.S. 

“I’m not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to tariffs. I’m not going to prejudice my options,” said Biden.

According to the interview, he first wants to conduct a full review of the existing agreement with China and consult early next year with allies in Asia and Europe. Biden said he wants to get the U.S. back on the same page with our allies, “so we can develop a coherent strategy.”  The “goal would be to pursue trade policies that actually produce progress on China’s abusive practices – that’s stealing intellectual property, dumping products, illegal subsidies to corporations.”

The trade war began after President Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese goods and China retaliated against the U.S., especially on agricultural goods.

Health care workers should receive the vaccine first

A federal vaccine advisory committee, the advisory committee on Immunization Practices, is recommending that health-care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes should be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available.  There are an estimated 21 million healthcare workers and three million residents in long-term care facilities.  Residents and staff of long-term care facilities represent approximately 40% of the coronavirus deaths. 

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) continues to advocate that meatpacking plant employees should be a priority for vaccination.

“The men and women of the meat and poultry industry help keep America’s grocery stores stocked and our farm economy working. They should be highly prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, following our nation’s brave health care workers,” said Julie Anna Pots, NAMI president and chief executive officer.

The advisory committee will meet again to make recommendations for additional priority groups in the next phase, essential workers and older adults.

Organizations ask Congress to renew tax extenders

Organizations representing agriculture, energy, transportation, and community development are asking Congress to renew the expiring tax extenders before Congress adjourns

In a joint letter to the House and Senate leadership, over 60 organizations said, “Previous lapses of these temporary tax provisions have caused confusion and hardship for the many industry sectors and individuals that utilize these tax incentives. Allowing these tax extenders to lapse at the end of 2020 would undermine their effectiveness, threaten thousands of jobs in the U.S. economy and cause needless uncertainty for taxpayers at a time when many are coping with severe economic hardship. These measures have a direct impact on hiring, job retention, and business investment and their extension would have a positive impact on an economy in serious need of recovery.”

Some of the tax extenders important to agriculture include tax credits for second-generation biofuel producers; tax incentives for craft breweries, wineries, and distillers; tax credit for alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures; and tax credits for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property.

Those signing the letter include Advance Biofuels Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Horse Council, American Sheep Industry Association, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Realtors, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, and Renewable Fuels Association.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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