Legislative Action News, October 8, 2013

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Shutdown
By Stephen Frerichs

The Federal 2013 fiscal year ended at midnight September 30, 2013.  Because none of the 12 appropriations bills that fund most federal operations have been passed and signed into law, the federal government has no funding to continue those operations.  Usually when Congress fails to pass appropriations bills, it funds the government through a Continuing Resolution (CR), which simply means the government “continues” at previous fiscal year funding levels.  Because Congress and the President have yet to agree to the terms of the CR, a large portion of the government is shutdown.

Some federal programs continue despite the shutdown if they are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property, or are financed through non-discretionary funding such as through mandatory appropriations or user fees.  At USDA this means federal meat inspectors, emergency programs such as fire-fighting, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Payments, and the care for federal property including research plants and animals continue during the shutdown. Most other USDA activities are halted including USDA websites, the bulk of FSA and NRCS operations, crop reports and all National Forest recreation sites.

For example, FSA has roughly 70 employees working out of a workforce of 11,809. County offices are closed. Farmers are unable to apply for loans, including marketing loans or conduct any business with FSA unless it is related to an emergency program.  The entire Risk Management Agency (RMA) workforce is shutdown.  The crop insurance program continues to be delivered by the private sector. Claims are being worked and paid, but RMA is not currently reimbursing the companies for the claim payments as normally occurs.

Both political parties are dug-in and the two sides don’t appear to be talking to each other right now either. With no end in sight, the debt ceiling breach (sometime around October 17th) and associated default by the U.S. government looms as a possible action enforcing event. Until then it is likely most of the government will remain without funding to operate normally. Congress did pass and the President signed a bill last week that funds all Defense Department employees allowing them to return to work. The House has also approved a measure to ensure federal employees who are currently furloughed will receive full pay. The Senate and the President are expected to agree.

House Combines Nutrition Bill with Farm Bill – Senate Names Conferees
By Stephen Frerichs

The current extension of the 2008 farm bill expired on September 30, 2013. Despite the shutdown of the government, several key steps have been taken towards moving the next farm bill forward. The House passed a rule that links together the House passed nutrition title with the rest of the House passed farm bill.  The combined measure was transmitted to the Senate.  The Senate substituted its version of the farm bill and sent it back to the House requesting a conference with the House.  The Senate also named its conferees. The remaining step before a formal conference can begin is for the House to name its conferees.  Rumors are that will happen this week.

The Senate Conferees are:

Democrats

  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont
  • Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa
  • Sen. Max Baucus of Montana
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado

Republicans

  • Senate Agriculture ranking member Thad Cochran of Mississippi
  • Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia
  • Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas
  • Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota

Economist doubtful farm bill will get done by end of year
Paul Hollis | Southeast Farm Press

The trick to talking about the farm bill is trying to find something new to say about a process that has been dragging on for about two and a half years, says Texas A&M Extension Economist Steven Klose.

“Whenever we talk about farm policy, it’s the same old song,” said Klose at this week’s Southern Region Agricultural Outlook Conference in Atlanta.
Continue reading on the Southeast Farm Press: http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/economist-doubtful-farm-bill-will-get-done-end-year?NL=SEFP-01&Issue=SEFP-01_20130930_SEFP-01_907&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1424694&sfvc4enews=42

Kiplinger Agriculture Letter

Despite a spotty late-season drought…limiting crop yields in parts of the Upper Midwest…
A huge soybean harvest is under way. It’ll help to refill storehouses in the U.S. and abroad, after a drop-off in stocks following last year’s drought. Though less than a fourth of the corn crop’s volume… Login to Member Resources to download the latest edition: http://portal.asfmra.org/Scripts/4Disapi.dll/4DCGI/cms/review.html?Action=CMS_Document&DocID=27&Time=820983562&SessionID=62057594yhofx712z58m6ib178uofz4n8xa01t8fypx92ywdh85706r0j6bv566f&MenuKey=123