Legislative Landscape U.S. September 2020


Sponsored by: West Texas National Bank 

 We are homing in on the election that is now only about a month out. Right now is usually the time pundits are speculating about an October surprise, although it seems like we have already had our share of September surprises which sounds like a better alliteration but tests the limits of our endurance to keep up with every turn of event until election day.

From the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg and the ensuing nomination battle for her successor to continued civil unrest and the presidential debates, there are nearly too many issues in comparison to space for headlines. Those topics will continue to attract the attention of the electorate, and rightly so given their long-lasting effects on the fabric of our nation, however in today’s legislative landscape we are focusing on the policies garnering less attention that have more immediate effect on our industry.

Going largely unnoticed, the government’s current spending authority will run out at the end of this month. Last week the House took action to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running through December 11th. Despite being initially left out, Credit Commodity Corporation funding that is used to provide USDA farm bill and COVID relief funds was included in the bill and fully replenished. With the CCC funding intact, the House passed the bill with an overwhelming bipartisan majority vote of 359-57. The bill is now sitting in the Senate, which is in session this week, and is expected to be passed before the government funding deadline.

With the inclusion of the CCC funding, the White House and USDA quickly announced that a second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments will be made available totaling more than $14 billion. Before this assistance was announced, the USDA chief economist released an article detailing how government transfers to producers are up 65% from 2020 resulting in just over a 1/3rd of farm income coming from federal payments. While these payments have been made to offset trade retaliation, market distortions, and the effects of COVID on agriculture, the sustainability of these payments remains uncertain as the government funding bill indicates. That continues to leave agriculture in a precarious position as the chief economists article points out, citing at the end of his article a University of Missouri study expecting farm income to fall by $21.9 billion in 2021 compared to pre-COVID forecasts. That decrease is calculated after accounting for government aid from farm bill programs but no extension of CFAP, MFP, or another round of congressional COVID relief programs like the PPP.

That takes us to the status of a potential phase IV COVID relief package from Congress. After the Senate firmly rejected the House passed $3 trillion dollar package, the House went back to the drawing board and the democrat majority is currently moving a paired-down $2.4 trillion dollar package. The bill still appears to be too much for the Republican-controlled Senate to get behind and puts in doubt the likelihood that Congress will pass a phase IV relief package before the election.

We now turn our attention to the Right to Repair roundup where there is mixed news about potential R2R legislation in 2021. After the primary sponsor of right to repair legislation in Idaho lost her primary challenge, the Idaho Farm Bureau is signaling that they will not be pushing their own right to repair bill, but are leaving the door open to supporting future legislation if it aligns with their internal policy. This is good news as we will continue to work with the Idaho Farm Bureau and its members on solutions that don’t involve unnecessary, prescriptive legislation.

Moving over to Missouri, we are hearing rumblings that the previous bill sponsor of Right to Repair legislation is once again placing the issue on a legislative priorities list for the 2021 legislative session. We are hopeful that we can build on the work we did earlier this year to dissuade legislators from pursuing further legislation.

And finally, in a related note, the State of Massachusetts is being overrun with television ads from both sides about the consequences of passing a ballot measure that would expand right to repair for the auto industry in the state. The ballot measure would expand on previously passed auto right to repair legislation by opening up access to vehicle telematics software. The ballot measure directly contradicts a memorandum of understanding the auto industry and right to repair proponents agreed to previously. To date, the ad campaigns from both sides have surpassed $35 million in spending.

On that note, hope everyone is having a successful harvest and we’ll see what the next month brings!

Podcast By Eric Wareham

ERIC WAREHAM is the vice president of government affairs for the Western Equipment Dealers Association. He is a graduate of the Willamette University College of Law and Augusta State University. Eric may be reached by writing to ewareham@westerneda.com.


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