Rural Matters

Rural Matters: What’s Happening (or Not) in DC in 2024

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In last week’s column we did an overview of the key state-level issues that are likely to be on the to-do list for Iowa legislators. This week, we’re going to also look at the year ahead on what may, or may not, be happening on the federal-level. I’m writing to you this week from our nation’s capital, as I’m spending the week meeting with Congressional offices and some of our federal policy partners in D.C. Below are some of the key issues that are likely to be discussed or impact the discussions in the year ahead:

  • Farm Bill- We’ve had a comprehensive Farm Bill package since 1933. These are generally 5-years bills that were initially focused on supporting farm income, but have grown to include a variety of areas (generally organized as “Titles” within the final bill). The most recent Farm Bill (Agricultural Improvement Act) was passed in 2018, meaning we are due for a new bill soon. Congress is extending the current programs through September 30, 2024, and time will tell whether or not Congress will be able to move a comprehensive package or be forced to do another short term extension. Both the Republicans and Democrats have begun holding listening sessions to gather feedback on changes for a 2024 bill, but no drafts or markup hearings have commenced. 
  • Immigration- With increasing tensions around the globe, so too are the tensions close to home, as the conversation around the security of the U.S. border grows. The focus is largely on the crossing and chaos occurring at the southern border. Over the years there has been a growing number of H-2A, or temporary ag workers, that come into the U.S. to assist with busy planting, harvest, or other seasonal busy periods. We’ll continue to monitor those debates to ensure policy reforms do not impair the ability to secure critical farm labor. 
  • Budget/Spending- The federal government spending is technically categorized into twelve separate appropriations bills, and each is assigned its own sub-committee. If Congress works in what is called regular order, then they would consider each spending measure individually. However, what has become more common is combining multiple spending measures into one, which is what we refer to as an omnibus. The federal fiscal year begins October 1, which is why we commonly begin to hear about omnibus discussions in early fall leading up to the September 30, deadline. As of today, the federal government is operating under a short term continuing resolution, providing funds through early March. 
  • Tax Policy Updates- While budgets and allocations of funds are important, Congress is also in charge of determining how those funds are raised initially, which is their taxing authority. Our federal tax policy is incredibly complex, and continually changing. This year we have already seen robust conversation about possible changes to the section 179 expensing, bonus depreciation, child tax credits, and others. 
  • Election Season- Not only is this a Presidential election year, but because House members serve 2-year terms, all 435 members of the U.S. House are on the ballot, along with 1/3 of the U.S. Senate. Politicians need to win their campaigns in order to maintain their seats, so it’s a balance of time, official policy work during election years. With a limited amount of days on the official calendar in D.C., that will limit the time available for committee mark ups, floor debate, and other steps necessary to pass legislation. 

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