Pending Federal Legislation to Watch

May 28, 2019 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Update: On the evening of June 3, 2019, the House passed H.R. 2157, sending the disaster relief bill to the President for his signature.

Several bills with general bipartisan support are pending in Congress. These bills, if passed, would impact farmers and ranchers across the country. We will keep you posted as developments unfold.

Disaster Relief – H.R. 2157: Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019

Finally passing the Senate on May 23, 2019, H.R. 2157 would provide $19.1 billion in nationwide disaster relief to those impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding. This bipartisan package would include just over $3 billion of aid directly to farmers impacted by 2018 and 2019 natural disasters and language to waive the gross income requirement for producer eligibility under the Market Facilitation Program. An amendment was made to ensure that losses to stored grain would also be covered. The package includes conservation funds for emergency repairs to damaged farmland and funds for rural watershed recovery. The bill did not clear the Senate until the House had left Washington for the Memorial Day 10-day recess. Although the House had passed the bill on May 10, the Senate passage included an amendment that the House must approve. During the recess, leadership attempted to get the bill through the House with multiple unanimous consent requests, but each time they were blocked. The bill is expected to pass with a vote in the House during the first week of June.

Chapter 12 Bankruptcy – S.897/H.R. 2336: Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019

Under the bankruptcy law, only those debtors meeting the statutory definition of “family farmer” are eligible for Chapter 12 Bankruptcy relief. 11 U.S.C. § 101(18). S.897 would increase the debt limit for “family farmer” from $4,153,150 (as indexed for inflation) to $10,000,000, allowing more farmers to be eligible for Chapter 12 relief. The Congressional Research Service has provided some useful analysis regarding how many farmers have debt in this expanded range. 

Retirement – H.R. 1994: Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act

Passing the House on May 23 by a vote of 417-3, this bipartisan bill would make significant changes to the U.S. retirement system. Although the Senate had its own version of this legislation, it appears more likely that the Senate will vote on the House bill. bypassing the reconciliation process. Senator Cruz, however, blocked an attempt for Senate approval through unanimous consent because the House bill stripped a provision that would have allowed Section 529 Plan withdrawals to be applied toward homeschooling expenses. The House bill would also repeal the new kiddie tax changes implemented with the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. It still appears likely the bill will pass the Senate. The bill would make a number of changes to the retirement system, including removing the age limit for investing in IRAs, increasing the age for required minimum distributions from 70 ½ to 72, and penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts for new babies or adoption expenses. The bill would also increase the credit for retirement plan startup costs and create an employer automatic enrollment credit.

Tax Extenders / Disaster Tax Relief / Technical Corrections

There has been a lot of discussion in Washington D.C. about tax extenders, tax relief for those impacted by disasters, and technical corrections to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. We continue to monitor these issues, but so far nothing promising has advanced.