US Capitol Building at Christmas 2016 - Getty Images Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree stands at the West Front Lawn of the Capitol during its lighting ceremony December 6, 2016 in Washington, DC. This year's tree is an 80 foot Engelmann Spruce from the Payette National Forest in Idaho.

Merry Christmas from your friends in Congress

In a spirit of bipartisanship often lacking in recent years, Congress passes legislation that could help farmers in a number of ways as 2016 comes to an end.

Christmas came early for some farmers this year when Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation or WIIN Act and other major pieces of legislation in the last days of the lame duck session of the 114th Congress.

WIIN, the 21st Century Cures Act; and a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open through next April 28 – who knew such bipartisanship existed in this Congress – will provide farmers with a wide range of benefits.

WIIN, for example, will provide funding for “improving waterways, flood control, and other projects in Mississippi,” as Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker noted in a joint press release. And just think – two years ago Sen. Cochran came within a handful of votes of losing his Senate to someone who wouldn’t have supported any of those bills.

Buried in the WIIN Act was a provision that some might call Congress’ first shot at ending regulatory overkill by the EPA. The bill included legislation authored by Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., that rolls back some of EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule for farms.

The SPCC regulations were originally designed for major oil refineries but were expanded to include agricultural producers by regulating on-farm oil storage. WIIN provides flexibility for storing oil containers on individual parcels of land and a complete exemption for animal feed additives, including tallow and grease.

The Continuing Resolution also increases funding for credit guarantee programs that may be needed to help farmers receive the financing that could help them continue in the current low-price environment.

The flurry of last-minute legislation was impressive with members on both sides of the aisle working to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which, among other medical research efforts, will provide $1.8 billion aimed at finding a cure for cancer, the so-called “Cancer Moonshot” program. (Vice President Joe Biden, one of its authors who presided over the Senate for probably the last time, called it “one of the most important moments in my career.”)

It also makes you wonder what Congress could have accomplished over the last few years if members had been more interested in working together than scoring political points for use in the next election.

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