October 1, 2013
Traditionally, nutrition programs have been incorporated into comprehensive Farm Bill legislation. The traditional route failed in the House of Representatives during July consideration, primarily because of concerns over spending and reforms to nutrition programs. As a result, the House passed a “farm programs” only Farm Bill and went to work crafting a separate nutrition bill. The product of this process is legislation that would cut nutrition spending by $39 billion over ten years. On September 19th, the House passed this nutrition legislation by a party-line vote of 217-210.
On Thursday, September 26th, the House Rules Committee took steps to reunite the nutrition and farm pieces of legislation. The House is expected to approve this measure quickly, paving the way for the Senate to ask for a formal conference and name conferees. The Senate has already named conferees once, after House passage of the farm programs only bill at the end of July. However, with the merger of the nutrition and farm bills, the Senate must take action again to name conferees. The Senate is expected to take action on conferees the week of September 30th, with the House following soon after by naming its conferees. House and Senate Agriculture Committee staff have been preparing for conference negotiations, so that work can begin quickly after all of the conferees are named.
In the meantime, the current extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires on September 30th. While authorities will expire, there are no plans to pass a short term extension at this time. Because crops planted in 2013 will continue to be covered under 2008 Farm Bill policies, there are not expected to be any major immediate impacts due to the expiration of authority. This calculation changes at the end of the 2013 calendar year, so Congress will have strong incentive to complete work on the Farm Bill by the end of the year.
With the end of the fiscal year looming, leaders in the House and Senate have been trading barbs over how to keep the government running. Without Congressional action by September 30th, the federal government will shut down, including programs at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The House passed a continuing resolution that would fund the government at current levels through the middle of December. However, the House added a controversial provision that would prohibit the use of funds to administer programs under Obamacare.
Democratic leaders in the Senate have stated that they will not accept a continuing resolution that includes any policy riders such as the one to defund Obamacare. On Friday, September 27th, the Senate voted to strip the Obamacare language out of the resolution and change the length of the resolution to fund the government only through mid-November. The House rejected the Senate’s Continuing Resolution and passed a version that would fund keep the government running until December, but also delays the individual mandate in Obamacare and repeals the medical device tax. The Senate is expected to vote down the new House resolution, increasing the likelihood of a government shutdown on October 1st. USDA’s plans for responding to a government shutdown can be found by clicking here.
On September 27th, FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith participated in the FASS Fall Board Meeting. Lowell and Walt updated the board on the status of the farm bill and fiscal year 2013 appropriations. They also discussed ongoing FASS Science Policy activities including work with coalitions and the status of the National Academies of Science study focused on animal science.