The passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 signed into law by President Trump March 23 was a win for farmers. Along with clarifying requirements on electronic logging devices and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the budget bill also addressed the cooperative tax deduction discrepancy, rural broadband needs and funding for career and technical education, among others.
“Undoubtedly there has been a lot of confusion and uncertainty surrounding many of these issues, and we applaud Congress for listening to our concerns and working to try and quickly address them,” said Jack Irvin, OFBF senior director, state and national policy.
The federal spending bill is in effect though Fiscal Year 2018, which ends in September.
Cooperative Tax Deduction
The budget legislation amends the cooperative tax deduction, Section 199A. This provision restores balance to commodity markets and re-establishes fairness between cooperative and noncooperative agriculture producers, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018. Federal tax reform signed into law in December had included a gross sales deduction of 20 percent when selling to a cooperative only. This legislation returns to tax policy more closely aligned with what was in place before major tax reform was passed late last year.
The law creates a $625 million pilot program within the Rural Utility Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Rural Electrification Act. At least 90 percent of the households must be in a rural area currently without sufficient access to broadband to be eligible to receive a loan or grant under the pilot program. Ohio lawmakers are also working on broadband access legislation at the state level.
Career and Technical Education
Perkins Basic State Grants received a $75 million increase within the legislation, a sign of support in Washington for career and technical education funding.
According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, in addition to the Perkins increase other programs that saw a bump within the budget bill included Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (ESSA Title IV-A), Pell Grants, work study programs and apprenticeship opportunities.
These issues were lobbied for when Farm Bureau county presidents visited Washington, D.C. in March and met with their legislators on Capitol Hill.