Passing in the House with a 316-113 vote, the omnibus bill was also approved 65-33 in the Senate as political leaders worked to avoid a government shutdown. The White House expects the president to sign the bill.
Trade and agricultural livestock groups praised the bill and its repeal of mandatory COOL laws for beef and pork. The U.S. was facing a retaliatory trade war with Mexico and Canada to the tune of $1 billion in tariffs, under terms granted by the WTO in the latest appeal made by the two countries.
"Since its inception, I have warned that retaliation was coming, and I’m pleased American agriculture and businesses will escape these tariffs,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told The Hill. Retaliation could have been handed down by those countries as early as this week.
“COOL has plagued our industry for many years now, costing us millions and driving us to the brink of retaliation from two of our largest trading partners,” says National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Philip Ellis. “Cattle producers have had to bear the cost of this failed program for far too long, and we commend the leadership of Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) for ensuring the United States is brought back into compliance with our trade obligations.”
The spending bill had several other terms and riders included as part of long negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, involving tax relief and spending programs. Several items were related to agriculture and beef production.
The bill includes prohibitions upon the federal government listing the sage grouse as an endangered species and strengthens regulatory power to monitor beef imports from countries with animal disease outbreaks.
NCBA also applauded the bill for prohibiting the EPA from requiring livestock producers to obtain Clean Air Act permits or report greenhouse gas emissions on livestock operations. The bill did not take any action to remove the “Waters of the United States” rules currently debated in the federal courts.
Some of the government spending measures include increases in wildfire management funds to help agencies battle fires in drought-affected regions of the West.
The NCBA also praised portions of the tax code extended under the bill, including Section 179, which is permanently extended at $500,000, up from $25,000 previously. Bonus depreciation is set at 50 percent for property acquired during 2015, 2016 and 2017, and phases down, with 40 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in 2019. Additionally, the conservation easement tax credit is made permanent.
PHOTO: Staff photo.