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Congress' year-end scramble

Congress' year-end scramble

CONGRESS had to give itself yet another extension on funding the government as negotiations didn't wrap up by the self-imposed Dec. 11 deadline.

Although negotiations had been separate, it appears that an omnibus funding bill and tax extenders will be moved together ahead of Christmas. Riders and which tax extenders should be included seemed to slow down negotiations throughout the week.

The potential large-scale tax extenders agreement would make some provisions permanent, such as higher Section 179 expensing limits, and would provide a multiyear extension for others provisions, like the biodiesel tax credit.

Republicans are motivated by the potential to make some of the business tax provisions permanent, while Democrats would like to extend or make permanent the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Bipartisan and bicameral legislation was introduced Dec. 3 that would reform the biodiesel tax incentive from a blenders credit to a producers credit focused on domestic production.

More than 500 million gal. of foreign fuel have been blended already this year to take advantage of the incentive. Limiting the credit to apply only to domestic production would save about $90 million, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

As for the riders, agriculture is watching some important ones.

First, now that the World Trade Organization has approved Canada's and Mexico's retaliation levels in response to U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL), it could be a necessity for Congress to fix the rule in the last possible legislative vehicle before the tariffs go into effect this month. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), who previously introduced a bill calling for a voluntary COOL label, said she will not stand in the way of a repeal to prevent retaliation.

The Environmental Protection Agency's "waters of the U.S." rule continues to irk many in Congress, and agricultural groups are calling for another rider to halt the rule. Reports indicate that Senate Democrats are pushing back hard, meaning that, with everything else on the table, it may be too much to ask. And, anyhow, a recent court ruling issued a stay on the water rule's implementation.

The Grocery Manufacturers Assn. is not giving up on attempts to include its federal labeling approach for food with genetic engineered ingredients, which would block Vermont's mandatory law from going into effect in July. At least four Democrats have promised to block the measure, making its inclusion questionable.

Volume:87 Issue:47

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