Looming Shutdown Could Crimp Farm Exports

Fight over the budget has trickle down impact on a lot of programs including export funding and the farm bill.

Published on: Sep 27, 2013

The clock is ticking and everyone from National Park Rangers to farmers is watching to see what Congress does. The showdown over Obamacare, brought into the debate in the House and carried on in a 22-hour dissertation in the Senate continues. This morning the Wall Street Journal reports that John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House, won't accept the Senate version of the budget if it doesn't defund Obamacare.

With just three days left before a threatened shutdown, farm export experts are worried too. The U.S. Grains Council expressed its concern that not passing the Continuing Resolution would impact key programs. The worry is the length of a potential shutdown.

LONG HOURS AHEAD? Congress has a lot of work to do before Sept. 30, with a government shutdown looming.
LONG HOURS AHEAD? Congress has a lot of work to do before Sept. 30, with a government shutdown looming.

In a press statement, Floyd Gaibler, USGC director of trade policy and biotechnology, says: "Depending on the length of the shutdown, it could have impacts on USDA's Foreign Agricultural Services program funding, which the council relies on to develop global markets for U.S. agricultural products."

Immediate impact of a shutdown would be a delay in obtaining approval for Council 2013-2014 Foreign Market Development funding for international offices and staff. The program year ends Sept. 30, and if there's no authorization USGC can't pay for its nine international offices and staff.

USGC points out that the next impact would be Council programs. Those that are already approved could start, but reimbursement may not be available if a shutdown occurs.

And that lingering farm bill issue has a role too. A government shutdown in the absence of the farm bill would delay further authorization of new FAS funds for export programs in fiscal 2014. Those promotional programs have helped build export volumes with key trading partners, and opened doors to new global buyers.

Farm Bill stalled

As for the farm bill? It expires on Monday, Sept. 30, which will have an impact going forward. Roll Call detailed some of that impact, including end of funding for 37 mandatory programs, no more signups for the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program, and more.

The American Soybean Association pointed to a report from the Congressional Research Service that also details the varied ways the Monday deadline could impact the farm bill, and USDA programs. The farm bill itself sits waiting for conference committee review, which could be contentious given the wide-ranging differences between the House and Senate over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending. The ongoing fight over the Continuing Resolution and the upcoming debt ceiling battle have taken Congressional attention away from the farm bill, and a range of other issues, including immigration.