It has been a busy couple of weeks for TSCRA Government and Public Affairs staff. We didn’t send out an update last week due to the Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo that was happening, but if you were able to attend there were some great updates on the policy front. On Friday, Congressmen Steve Scalise and Roger Williams opened our D.C. Issues Update with NCBA’s Colin Woodall, who brought some great news for cattle raisers.
Last week, on Thursday, President Trump signed the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which included several components vital to cattle producers. First, the bill provided a livestock exemption to CERCLA/EPCRA reporting. That is the issue that would have required ranchers to report emissions from their cattle in the same manner as EPA Superfund sites for toxic waste. This is the permanent solution we’ve been wanting, so hopefully it closes the book on the issue.
Next, the omnibus legislation further extends, until September, the agriculture exemption for use of electronic logging devices (ELDs). This extends the exemption even further than the U.S. Department of Transportation did in their latest 90-day extension, which would have got us to June. There is still work to be done on the ELD and Hours of Service issues, but the additional time is very helpful.
The bill also included additional funding for the fever tick eradication program. South Texas Congressmen Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez led the charge to include $97.5 million for the USDA-APHIS cattle health program, which includes $5 million specifically for fever tick eradication and another $1 million to USDA-ARS to research cattle fever tick treatments. If you want to learn more about fever ticks, check out our “Where We Stand” column from Federico Nieto in the April issue of The Cattleman magazine.
Finally, the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill includes a fix for Section 199A in the tax code, which was inadvertently flawed in the tax overhaul bill. 199A fix included in the bill will equalize tax treatment of commodity sales to cooperatives and non-cooperatives, while also providing flow-through deduction from co-ops to their members similar to the old Section 199 deduction for domestic production activities.
If you were at the convention, you also likely heard from Congressman Mike Conaway, who keynoted our Opening General Session. Chairman Conaway is busy working through the next Farm Bill, and TSCRA staff are closely watching developments and engaging with legislators and staff to ensure farm bill issues important to cattle raisers are maintained.
Earlier this month, TSCRA also signed onto a letter along with 97 of our fellow livestock organizations across the nation to encourage additional funding for Section 1433 of the 2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. This would provide $10 million in appropriations for Continuing Animal Health and Disease, Food Security and Stewardship Research, Education and Extension programs. To ready the full letter, click here.
Finally, as we look ahead, TSCRA governmental affairs staff and leaders are preparing to head to Washington, D.C. in less than two weeks. They will be attending NCBA’s Legislative Conference, and also have a number of meetings scheduled with lawmakers.