Midnight Deal Gets Government Up and Running, Raises Debt Ceiling – For Now
The Senate and House passed and President Barack Obama signed a bill late Wednesday to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling. Much of the U.S. government has been shuttered since Oct. 1 when appropriations to fund programs across the country and the world came to halt. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department had predicted that after today, Oct. 17, it would no longer be able to pay the government’s bills because it would no longer have authority to borrow more money. The three-week, highly-partisan battle to address both of these issues ultimately led to short-term relief and a resetting of the clock. The approved continuing resolution funds the government until just Jan. 15, while the newly-raised debt ceiling is expected to be breached again by mid-February. A special budget-focused conference committee has been established to try to breach the political chasm on these issues by mid-December. If that’s not possible, another fiscal crisis is likely early next year.
Fiscal Crisis Over, Signs Hopeful for Some Farm Bill Progress
With the nation’s fiscal crisis at least temporarily resolved, all eyes in the agriculture community are turned to the long-going talks to finalize the next farm bill. The House named conferees over the weekend; a full list is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/press-release/farm-bill-process-moves-forward-house-conferee-appointments. House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders met this week, and conferees are expected to hold their first meeting the week of Oct. 28, when the Senate returns from a week-long recess. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) described the process going forward Wednesday in an extensive interview with Oklahoma broadcaster Ron Hays, available at http://www.oklahomafarmreport.com/wire/news/2013/10/media/00454_FrankLucas10162013.mp3. President Barack Obama called out the farm bill as a post-crisis priority in a speech on Thursday. Meanwhile, sticking points on the farm safety net and nutrition spending remain; the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported to Congress this week that the House version of the farm bill would cut overall spending more than the Senate version, in part due to deep cuts in food assistance programs.
Groups Write Farm Bill Conferees on Food Aid Program Funding
A group of maritime, non-governmental organizations and farm groups including NAWG wrote farm bill conferees this week emphasizing the importance of our nation’s long-standing and successful international food aid programs. The letter supports the reauthorization of current programs including the Food for Peace and Food for Progress programs, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. The groups urged the conferees not to make changes that take transparency away from current programs, including several offered in the Obama Administration budget, and to keep the use of U.S-grown commodities as a defining characteristic of U.S. international food aid efforts. The full letter is available at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill.
WRRDA Could Hit the House Floor As Early as Next Wednesday
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which was passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last month, could be on the House floor next week. House Members are able to submit amendments to the bill until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22, which will be considered later that evening by the Rules Committee. After the Rules Committee’s approval, the bill could see floor time next Wednesday or Thursday. WRRDA seeks to increase funding for waterway development projects, such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repair and upgrades. The T&I Committee-passed bill includes language that will help speed up the project review process, which should ultimately allow goods like wheat to be shipped more efficiently. The Senate passed its version of the bill on May 15.
Wheat Groups Applaud World Food Prize Laureates, Voice Support for Biotech Wheat
NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) reinforced this week their support for the continued development of biotech wheat by joining others in the industry to congratulate the 2013 World Food Prize recipients, whose work has been instrumental to this vital technology. While biotech wheat is not currently available to farmers, the two industry organizations and the farmers who lead them support innovation, research and the responsible introduction of new wheat varieties, including biotech wheat. Both organizations are working with industry partners throughout the wheat value chain to prepare the path for new varieties of wheat – both biotech and non-biotech – that will improve farmers’ ability to increase yields, use fewer agricultural inputs and continually improve the quality of their crop. More from NAWG and USW is at www.wheatworld.org/news-events/2013/10/nawg-and-usw-applaud-wfp-laureates-reinforce-support-for-biotech-wheat/. An audio report on the World Food Prize and wheat innovation is at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/audio-2013-world-food-prize-biotech-wheat-report-20131017.mp3.
USDA Confirms Cancellation of Crop Reports Due to Lack of Data During Shutdown
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and World Agricultural Outlook Board said Thursday they have cancelled or postponed publication of several USDA statistical reports because of the just-ended government shutdown. Reports impacted included NASS’s crop production report and the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) slated for release last week. NASS’s crop progress reports for Oct. 7 and 15 were also cancelled. Other reports planned for this Friday will be postponed. USDA said the changes were necessary because while it is up and running as of Thursday, its employees were unable to collect and analyze all the data necessary for the reports in question. USDA reports are considered the gold standard in information about ag markets, and many market analysts have been concerned about the impact on market functioning from the data dearth during the shutdown.
ICYMI: The Unknown Effect of the Shutdown on Ag Research
Readers of this publication are well aware that farming is a vocation uniquely dependent on seasons and vagaries in the weather. Adding to the challenge for agriculture researchers employed in federal labs over the past few weeks was the government shutdown, which legally prohibited them from working. This new reality is a strong reminder that adequate and, most important, consistent funding is vital for plant and animal scientists to do their jobs. NAWG and our wheat industry colleagues will continue to educate policymakers about how crucial it is to meet these goals for the future of crop health, our economy and our food security. A story published this week by Agweek explored this issue in more depth, and is worth a read if you missed it. It is at www.agweek.com/event/article/id/21863/.