With U.S. Government Reopened, Farm Bill among Top Priorities

On Wednesday evening, Congress reached an agreement to end the budget stalemate that shut down the U.S. government for 16 days. Government operations have reopened until Jan. 15 and the debt ceiling is suspended until Feb. 7, allowing time for broader budget negotiations. In remarks delivered after the deal was struck, President Obama listed passage of the farm bill as one of the key priorities he wants Congress to address as soon as possible.

“There are things that we know will help strengthen our economy that we could get done before this year is out,” President Obama said. “We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system. We still need to pass a farm bill. And with the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country.”

Although Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) allowing government operations to resume, USDA does not have legislative authority to allocate Market Access Program (MAP) funds or Foreign Market Development (FMD) program funds until a new farm bill is passed. USDA House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) says farm bill conferees could meet as early as next week to resolve differences between House and Senate versions. Reconciling proposed reforms in the food stamp program remains the most significant obstacle for the farm bill, and the conference committee may need further guidance from the broader budget discussions before making decisions on food stamp spending.

As we reported earlier this month, the U.S. government shutdown has impacted availability of monthly export data for beef, pork and lamb and weekly export sales data for beef and pork. Even now that the shutdown has ended, the timeline for availability of new data is still unclear. USMEF was informed that USDA/FAS requested updated export data from the Census Bureau on Oct. 18, so we will post new export statistics as soon as this data can be compiled and summarized.