October 1st has come and Americans are left without a farm bill and the government has shutdown.
Congress has been working on a new 5-year farm bill for over two years and has ultimately come up short once again. While representatives shared nothing but optimism with farmers and taxpayers during their time spent back home, they did not finish the job on the farm bill. The can was kicked down the road with a nine-month extension that passed last December 31st during the last government shutdown scare to provide Congress with some extra time. While the Senate has passed a version in June each of the past two years, the House continued to make plenty of noise, only to come up empty handed providing no certainty for those who grow the food and everyone who eats it.
What does an expired farm bill mean? Crop insurance and nutrition will stay intact, as they are mandatory programs. Conservation remains in place but new enrollments will not be accepted. MAP funding, key for export market relations, ends, meaning that deals in place and foreign buyer relationships are entirely at risk. Dairy prices are likely to rise at the end of the year and commodity programs revert back to 1949 law. To get more in depth, you can read this Congressional Research Report.
As for the government shutdown, our good friends over at Minnesota Corn have concisely summed up what it means for farmers.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mostly gone dark. With the exception of food and grain inspections, fighting forest fires and monitoring government property, most of the department’s 100,000 employees are furloughed (put on temporary leave) and offices are closed.
- Monthly crop estimates — due Oct. 11 — will be delayed if the shutdown lasts more than a couple days. The October crop report is usually the most anticipated report of the year.
- Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development offices are closed. All FSA farm program signups, processing and payments stop during the shutdown. Ditto for farm loan applications and processing. Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program and other conservation programs is halted. Note that this also means wetlands determinations have also been halted.
- The Risk Management Agency (RMA) is shut down. No revenue harvest prices will be posted. No administrative and operating expenses will be paid to companies. Companies can pay crop insurance indemnities as long as they are financially able to do so, but the government cannot help.
USDA has its contingency plans posted here, but as of this morning, clicking on each link brings you to a white screen with the USDA logo on top and this message:
Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.