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Members of the House and Senate will return to Washington, D.C. after the mid-term elections with a full plate of business. One item on the agenda is the 2018 Farm Bill which farm-group leaders hope will be passed before the end of the year.

A major infrastructure bill that has been in back-and-forth consideration in Congress for weeks just might be passed soon. If passed into law, the legislation would be one of the largest infrastructure packages in history.

The INVEST in America Act was passed in the House of Representatives in mid-July by a bipartisan vote of 221-201. The Senate drafted their version of the bill over a weekend, releasing a 2,702-page bill Sunday, Aug. 1.

The Senate’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contains $1.2 trillion in funding for roads, bridges, ports, and high-speed internet, among others. A total of $550 billion is allocated for new infrastructure expenditure, along with $450 billion of previously approved funds. The cost would be offset by a number of tax provisions—exact cost was uncertain as the Congressional Budget Office had not yet released an analysis.

The Senate met to discuss the bill and its amendments Aug. 5, stretching past WLJ press time. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had the authority to cut off debate later in the day in order to launch a budget debate by Saturday, Aug. 7. As of Thursday morning, the Senate had considered 22 amendments, which Schumer boasted was more than both 2019 and 2020 combined.

“Today we will consider even more amendments. And then hopefully we can bring this bill to a close very shortly,” Schumer said. “Our goal is to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution during this work period, and we will stay here to get both done.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) remarked to reporters, “Everybody understands that right behind this is going to be the budget and I don’t think anybody is looking to extend this out any longer than necessary.”

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (AK) filed an amendment to the bill, asking for more than $50 billion in defense funding for repairs and upgrades at shipyards, defense labs, test range and depots. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Roger Wicker (R-MI) joined Shelby in what is the largest proposal for defense money in an infrastructure bill thus far.

Notable propositions in the bill include:

• $110 billion for new roads and bridges;

• $73 billion to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy;

• $66 billion for railway;

• $65 billion in broadband infrastructure;

• $55 billion for clean drinking water and pipe/service lines replacements;

• $50 billion for infrastructure to withstand impacts of climate change, cyber attacks;

• $39 billion for public transport;

• $25 billion for airports;

• $21 billion for environmental issues, pollution;

• $17 billion for ports; and

• $15 billion for electric cars, buses and trucks.

The Senate hoped to pass the bill before its August recess began Aug. 9, and the House of Representatives had already left for their recess with plans to return Sept. 20. If passed, the bill likely wouldn’t head to President Joe Biden’s desk until fall.

Ag spending bill

On Aug. 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 spending bill for the USDA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and related agencies, which included $25.855 billion in discretionary funding. This is an increase of $2.5 billion over FY 2021-enacted levels.

The bill includes more than $7 billion for disaster aid, $3.6 million for USDA research and $3.414 billion for the FDA, among other appropriations.

“Most importantly, the Committee recognizes the urgent threat that climate change poses to farm families and rural communities and makes critical investments in climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation throughout this bill,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in a statement.

Although the spending bill passed the committee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the bill, along with the Energy and Water and Military Construction spending bills, “are not on track to cross the finish line out on the floor.” McConnell said there is not yet a consensus on overall spending levels for FY 2022.

Other notable funding in the bill includes:

• Agricultural Research Service—$1.67 billion;

• National Institute of Food and Agriculture—$1.7 billion;

• Farm Service Agency—$1.2 billion;

• Water/wastewater disposal grants—$665 million; and

• ReConnect broadband program—$700 million. — Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor

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