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Compromise omnibus appropriations bill would fund government through Sept. 30

The FY2017 omnibus appropriations legislation must be approved by the House and Senate Friday to keep the government running.

Congressional budget negotiators rejected the majority of the Trump administration recommendations in drafting a compromise FY2017 omnibus appropriations bill that will keep the government operating through Sept. 30.

The agreement, which must be approved by the House and Senate by Friday to avert a government shutdown, even bars the government from spending money to construct any new fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico.

But the compromise also omits funding for the assistance programs sought by cotton and dairy organizations, instead directing USDA to develop a report outlining potential options for helping cotton producers within 60 days and to provide direct assistance to dairy farmers along the lines of the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share Program in 2016.

The National Cotton Council had been seeking inclusion of a designation of cottonseed as an “other oilseed” under the 2014 farm bill, which could have made cotton growers eligible to sign up for participation in Price Loss Coverage or PLC payments.

But budget negotiators failed to reach an agreement on including either the cotton or dairy provisions in the FY2017 omnibus appropriations legislation, which consists of 11 regular appropriations bills and some funding requests from the Trump administration and runs 1,665 pages.

Included in the $1-trillion spending proposal is $362 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Mississippi River and Tributaries Projects in the lower Mississippi Valley from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Gulf of Mexico. The funding is $140 million above the administration budget request and $23 million more than the total for FY2016.

The bill provides for a $95-million increase for flood control works that were unfunded or underfunded in the budget request; a $41-million increase for the Corps of Engineers to use at its discretion to advance ongoing Civil Works projects, including water supply, ground water protection, waterfowl management, educational facilities and other activities; and a $4-million increase for port and harbor dredging along the Mississippi River.

It also requires USDA to maintain 2016 funding levels for its research programs. The administration had proposed reducing the Agriculture Department’s overall budget, including money for research, by 21 percent. Instead, the budget compromise would increase funding for a number of research efforts, including cover crops and the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.

The bill also provides $25 million for the Delta Regional Authority or $9 million above the administration budget request, which reportedly would have eliminated the DRA. Within the overall amount, not less than $10 million is for basic public infrastructure work, according to a press release from Sen. Thad Cochran’s office. Sen. Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To read more about the omnibus appropriations bill, click on http://bit.ly/2pnYlYS

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