The U.S. Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through April 28, 2017 and the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act before adjourning for the year late last week.
The CR, in addition to maintaining funding for federal agencies and programs, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also includes a notable provision funding USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan programs. The provision provides FSA with sufficient loan authority to meet the increased demand resulting from low commodity prices and cash flow issues and is intended to ensure farmers have continued access to necessary financing.
The CR passed by a vote of 63-36 and was signed into law by President Barack Obama within hours of its passage to avoid any disruption in government operations.
The WIIN legislation passed by Congress encompasses the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 authorizing Army Corps of Engineers water resources and infrastructure operations and programs including locks and dams and dredging.
Overall, the bill authorizes 30 new Army Corps of Engineers projects, including ecosystem restoration efforts ranging from the Everglades to Lake Tahoe and the Great Lakes, and approves new tribal water rights settlements. The bill is also a vehicle for aid to address the drinking water contamination issues in Flint, Mich. and changes to California water policy that will provide more water to farms in central and southern California.
While this WRDA was modest compared to the significant policy reforms enacted in the 2014 WRDA, the American Soybean Association (ASA) is pleased that Congress seems committed to getting back to enacting WRDA reauthorizations every two years. As attention turns to 2017, there is hope that a major infrastructure investment initiative will be on the agenda and ASA is working to have waterways infrastructure included in any such package.
The new Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2017 with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017.