Appropriations & Government Funding
The Federal Budget process and the Appropriations process are in a constant state of flux. The wine and grape industries need to have certain federal programs and agencies funded to maintain positivegrowth, so WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America support the full funding of the federal government in time to avoid a government shutdown and to maintain the funding of the programs essential to the industry.
Currently the Federal Government is funded until April 28. Technically, we are in an extension of fiscal year 2016. That is, Congress passed a “continuing resolution” late last year to keep the government funded. In mid-March the House passed the FY 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill, which would fund the Defense Department from April 29 to September 30. This is one of eleven appropriations bills that must be passed each year to fund the federal government. With the House possibly devoting much of its time before the Spring recess on the American Health Care Act (repeal of Affordable Care Act) or other major legislative priorities, there will be little time to pass the remaining ten appropriations bills. Accordingly, it is clear that another large omnibus appropriations bill will need to be passed to fund the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. What is currently unclear, however, is if it will simply be an extension of the current spending levels, or will enact completely new funding levels for federal agencies.
Trump Budget Proposal
The Trump Administration released its budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018, which will start on October 1, 2017. The purpose of the budget blueprint, which is non-binding, is for the Administration to outline its budgetary priorities for the upcoming fiscal year to Congress. Congress is not obligated to take up any of the policies suggested in the blueprint. Below we will describe the changes in each federal department, but as expected the blueprint called for cuts across the board, with the exception of Defense and Homeland Security spending. We are concerned with the proposed 21% decrease in funding at the Department of Agriculture. While vague in nature, it was specified that there will be a staff reduction at USDA as well as a reduction in some statistical analysis. This could prove problematic for the wine and grape industries. Additionally, we are very concerned with the specific request of $15 million for mandatory E-verify within the budget request for the Department of Homeland Security.
Of further concern to the wine industry are any cuts to agencies such as TTB. We have worked diligently to maintain funding for TTB over the years. Wineries need COLAs and formulas reviewed on a timely basis, and currently the backlog for new and amended permits is quite sizable. Cuts to these programs would be detrimental to many wineries and wine-related businesses.
Additionally, other programs the wine industry needs are likely to be reduced or eliminated entirely. USDA’s Market Access Program assists wineries in marketing their products to international markets, and the wine industries of California, Washington, Oregon and New York have made extensive use of the grants available. Other programs, such as specialty crop block grants and value added block grants, could also be in jeopardy. We are also very concerned with the potential of agriculture research funding being reduced.