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first_imgASA is proud to announce that Congress concluded its work for the year by passing an omnibus appropriations bill and a package of tax provisions in a series of votes last week. Both pieces of legislation include items of significant interest and impact to soybean farmers, and below is a summary of the two bills. The House of Representatives passed the tax package by a vote of 318-108 and the Omnibus Appropriations bill by a vote of 316-113; and the Senate approved the package together with a vote of 65-33.  Congress will now adjourn for the remainder of 2015 as President Obama has indicated he will sign them into law. Omnibus Appropriations BillWhile some media outlets suggested the future of the Omnibus Appropriations bill was less than certain in both the House and the Senate, the end result was anything but. The bill passed with 316 votes in the House and 65 in the Senate. Included in the bill are the following wins for soybean farmers:Repeal of the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) ruleIncreased funding for Agriculture Research Service (ARS) for salaries & expenses to $1.114 million, a $11.2 million increase; and for the ARS buildings & facilities account, $212.1 million, an increase of $167 millionIncreased funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to $819.7 million, an increase of $32.8 million; including $350 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), a $25 million increaseContinued funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development (Cooperator) program at current levels of $200 million and $34.5 million, respectivelyFunding for the McGovern/Dole and Food for Peace development and assistance programsFunding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which also helps to fund the Regional Conservation Partnership Programs (RCPP)Increased funding for the construction, operation and maintenance of projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers along the Mississippi River and its tributaries$1.25 billion for eligible activities financed by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which funds port maintenance and improvementsDedicated funds for USDA disaster assistance programs, including those assisting growers suffering significant losses from recent flooding in the Carolinas.Unfortunately, two prominent, ASA-supported policy riders – one to prevent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulations and another on pre-emption of state GMO labeling initiatives were on the table during negotiations over the omnibus, but ultimately were not included.  Both issues are expected to be the focus of continued debate and legislative maneuvering again in 2016. Tax Extenders PackageASA had multiple priorities included in the Tax Extenders package, which passed with similar ease. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 included the following soy-specific provisions:Biodiesel Tax Credit – The package contains a two-year extension of the biodiesel tax credit. The credit is extended retroactive for 2015 and through 2016, however it remains as a blender’s credit rather than shifting to a producer’s credit as the ASA and biodiesel industry had supported.Section 179 Expensing Limits – The bill includes extension and modification of increased expensing limitations and treatment of certain real property as section 179 property. The provision permanently extends the small business expensing limitation and phase-out amounts in effect from 2010 to 2014 ($500,000 and $2 million, respectively). These amounts currently are $25,000 and $200,000, respectively. The provision modifies the expensing limitation by indexing both the $500,000 and $2 million limits for inflation beginning in 2016.Bonus Depreciation – The bill provides a 5 year extension of the bonus depreciation for property acquired and placed in service during 2015 through 2019 (with an additional year for certain property with a longer production period). The bonus depreciation percentage is 50 percent for property placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017 and phases down, with 40 percent in 2018, and 30 percent in 2019. The provision also modifies bonus depreciation to include qualified improvement property and to permit certain trees, vines, and plants bearing fruit or nuts to be eligible for bonus depreciation when planted or grafted, rather than when placed in service.The package also extends the conservation easement tax credit, and tax credits for donations to ag research organizationslast_img read more