Shutdown’s Effects Seep into Ag Business, Farm Bil
Two weeks into the government shut down, effects are beginning to become noticeable and notable across the agriculture industry. USDA remains virtually shuttered, with only minimal staff and a website that redirects to a page explaining that the full site is unavailable due to a lack of funding. The Department is also not issuing regular reports on crop production and exports that are considered essential to the continued functioning of ag markets and to accurate business decisions by farmers and other market participants. The House passed a bill on Monday to fund Food and Drug Administration (FDA) operations, though the Senate has refused to consider it or other such measures to fund only part of government operations. Import and export approvals for various goods have been stopped, and negotiations with European countries on a much-anticipated trade agreement have been put on hold. There have been fears of shortages of animal vaccines because the regulatory agency that approves them before they go to the marketplace is not operational. There are also widespread concerns about the state of weather data gathering and forecasting without government workers all on the job, and about recovery from weather-related disasters in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and elsewhere.
With federal spending and the debt ceiling dominating all action (and inaction) on Capitol Hill, the farm bill debate has been publicly set aside even while private negotiations and conversations continue. The Senate has reappointed its farm bill conferees, while the House has yet to name its negotiators. Word is that discussions among staff and ag leaders are continuing with sticking points on the commodity and nutrition titles and an eye toward hitching a ride on a larger budget deal if that path becomes available. A one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Oct. 1 along with government funding, leading farmers and consumers alike into a never-never land of no farm policy. This has had an immediate effect on some programs but will become more critical at the first of the year and as winter crops, including wheat, are harvested. NAWG strongly encourages approval of a new, long-term and comprehensive farm bill as soon as possible.