On Dec. 17 and 20, the House and the Senate passed fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills, including agriculture. HR1865, which contains the agriculture appropriations bill, passed by a 297-120 vote in the House and 71-23 in the Senate and was signed into law on Dec. 20. It provides $1 million for Supplemental and Alternative Crops, which funds the National Canola Research Program, and an additional $1.5 billion for the Wildfires & Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP+) to expand disaster assistance.
Congress also reached agreement on a “tax extenders” package that includes a five-year extension of the biodiesel tax credit at $1.00 per gallon for all five years covering 2018-2022, retroactive to Dec. 31, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2022. This five-year extension is a milestone as it is typically extended for only one or two years at a time.
On Dec. 19, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized 2020-2021 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes and provisions addressing the Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs). The RFS remains largely unchanged from the agency’s July proposal and offers no increase in volumes for biomass-based diesel or within overall advanced volumes for 2021. The U.S. Canola Association submitted comments on both of these matters, urging the EPA to increase biomass-based diesel volumes and to account for SREs using an average of the actual volumes waived.
The Trump Administration and U.S. Trade Representative announced a “phase one” agreement with China that will reportedly include significant increases in China’s purchases of U.S. products ($40 billion in 2020 and 2021 – a $16 billion increase over 2017 levels). China has confirmed it will include “notable” increases of U.S. agricultural products, but it has not publicly confirmed a specific amount. The White House has indicated that the phase one agreement will be signed on January 15.
The Trump Administration and Congressional Democrats reached agreement on the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) in mid-Dec. The House passed it by year-end but the Senate did not. According to Senate Majority Leader McConnell, a vote on the USMCA will not occur until late January 2020 after the Trump impeachment proceedings. Enactment of the USMCA would maintain existing policies for agricultural trade and result in:
- An increase in U.S. agricultural exports by $2 billion with a $65 billion increase in gross domestic product
- New market access for American dairy and poultry products while preserving zero tariffs for all other agricultural products
- Non-discriminatory grading standards for agricultural products, including wheat
- Science-based trading standards underpinning sanitary and phytosanitary measures and progress on geographic indications
- Cooperation, information-sharing and other trade-promoting rules related to agricultural biotechnology, including gene editing