Federal Appropriations and 2017 Disaster Assistance

NASCOE has a lobbyist and consultant, Hunter Moorhead of Crossroads Strategies who works on behalf of NASCOE membership.  He provided this update on the recent Federal Appropriations and 2017 Disaster Assistance that passed congress.

February 25, 2018
To: NASCOE Membership

From: Hunter Moorhead
Subject: Federal Appropriations and 2017 Disaster Assistance

This memorandum outlines the current appropriations/budget negotiations and the likely pathway forward for both fiscal years 2018 and 2019. In addition, this document outlines the recent passage of disaster assistance for states impacted by last year’s natural disasters. Following the brief government shutdown, Congress quickly reached an agreement to complete the 2018 appropriations process, provide disaster assistance and set spending caps for 2019. We believe this agreement paves the way to fund the government and avoid the uncertainty of budget sequestration and continuing resolutions.

On February 9, the House of Representatives passed the continuing resolution. This legislation extends government operations through March 23 and sets spending limitations that allow the 2018 bills to be finalized and sent to the President for his signature. The negotiations eliminated the budget sequester for two years and increased spending for both defense and non-defense. The final deal also included specific funding for the below policies.

Budget Agreement:

(bilions)

FY17

FY18

FY19

Current law defense cap

551

549

562

Cancel defense sequester

54

54

Security priorities

26

31

New defense cap

551

629

647

OCO/emergency

83

71

69

Defense discretionary total

634

700

716

Current law nondefense cap

519

516

529

Cancel nondefense sequester

37

37

Domestic priorities

26

31

New nondefense cap

519

579

579

OCO

21

12

8

Nondefense discretionary total

539

591

605

Spending Agreement:

 National Institutes of Health – $1B for 2018 and $1B for 2019;
 Opioids and Mental Health – $3B for 2018 and $3B for 2019;
 Veterans Administration healthcare backlog – $2B for 2018 and $2B for 2019;  Infrastructure – $10B for 2018 and $10B for 2019;
 Child Care Development Block Grant – $2.9B for 2018 and $2.9B for 2019; and  Higher Education – $2B for 2018 and $2B for 2019.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working now to finalize the fiscal year 2018 spending levels across all government programs. The deadline for completing negotiations is set for March 23. This will allow the Department of Agriculture to operate for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

The agreement also included disaster assistance for areas impacted by 2017 hurricanes. At this point, the Department of Agriculture is working to determine procedures and sign- up dates.

Disaster Assistance for USDA programs:

The supplemental provides a total of $3.597 billion in disaster funding for programs under the jurisdiction of the agriculture subcommittee. This funding will provide relief for producers, families, and communities in states affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and recent wildfires. The bill also makes changes to existing mandatory disaster programs to accommodate losses resulting from the 2017 drought.

Ad Hoc Agriculture Disaster – $2.36 billion for crop disasters as a result of hurricanes and wildfires. Producers who purchased crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) on eligible crops will be allowed to recoup up to 85 percent of their losses. Producers who did not have crop insurance or NAP on eligible crops will be allowed to recoup up to 65 percent of their losses. Producers receiving payments will be required to purchase crop insurance or NAP policies on eligible commodities for each of the next two years.

Disaster Program Changes – $42 million – Removes the annual statutory cap on the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, currently set at $20 million per year. Amends the Livestock Indemnity Program to cover “sold livestock for a reduced sale price” as cause for an indemnity payment due to natural disaster or drought (only mortality is currently covered), and removes payment limitations currently capped at $125,000. It increases payment acreage for the Tree Assistance Program from 500 acres to 1,000 acres. All changes would be applied to losses incurred on January 1, 2017 or later.

Office of the Inspector General – $2.5 million for Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit and investigative oversight activities related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Research Programs – $22 million for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to repair damages to 14 ARS-owned facilities and equipment resulting from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Conservation Programs – $941 million – $400 million for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and $541 million for the Emergency Watershed Program (EWP).

Rural Development – $184.1 million – $18.6 million for Multi-Family Housing Direct Loans for rehabilitation of multifamily housing properties affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Funding is needed to cover properties damaged or destroyed but not covered by existing insurance policies. $165.5 million for the Rural Utilities Services to repair drinking water systems and sewer and solid waste disposal systems affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Within this amount, $2 million is provided for technical assistance.

Nutrition Programs – $38 million – $24 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to provide an additional 35 million pounds of food for food banks in states affected by hurricanes and wildfires. $14 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to help repair and replace equipment in WIC clinics in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Conclusion:

We are working to secure the highest funding level possible for fiscal year 2018 FSA Salaries and Expenses. Once finalized, we hope the Department of Agriculture will hire new county office employees. County office staff numbers are so low customer service is being negatively impacted. Our NASCOE leadership has meet with various FSA and USDA officials to urge them to hire additional employees.

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