Dec 20, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC -- The first session of the 116th Congress is officially a wrap. To say that the happenings in Congress during 2019 have been interesting would be an understatement. But, two vital pieces of legislation made headway prior to Congress leaving Washington for the holiday break.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5430, which is the implementing legislation for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 385 to 41. The new trade pact is slated to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if approved by all three member countries.
Mexico approved the agreement this past summer; remaining is passage and signature by the U.S. Senate and President, respectively, as well as approval by Canada, which is likely to closely follow U.S. approval. Given the end of the legislative session in the U.S., the Senate will not consider the measure until early next year.
“USA Rice strongly supports the ratification of the USMCA and appreciates the House of Representatives’ approval of the agreement,” said Charley Mathews, Jr., California rice farmer and chair of USA Rice. “While rice trade with our neighbors to the north and south remains duty-free, we look forward to market stabilization and advancing our efforts to increase exports to our North American trading partners. We’re hopeful for the Senate’s quick approval of the agreement early next year so we can achieve these goals.”
Also yesterday, the Senate passed two omnibus appropriations measures that were passed by the House earlier this week. President Trump is expected to sign the bills into law later today, funding the government for fiscal year 2020 through September 30, while also reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and several other policy riders.
Discretionary funding in fiscal year 2020 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and related agencies is $23.5 billion, an increase of $183 million over fiscal year 2019. Included in the measure is an additional $1.5 billion allocated for agriculture disaster assistance programs. This additional disaster funding authorizes USDA to cover additional causes of loss, including excessive moisture for the 2018 and 2019 crop years. The measure also replenishes the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) with $26.3 billion in mandatory funding.
“As the 2019 legislative session comes to a close, the U.S. rice industry can be proud of our accomplishments over the past year,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs. “However, much work remains to be done this Congress, and USA Rice looks forward to representing our members in Washington and advocating for our priorities next year.”