With only five days until the end of the fiscal year, Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. The House of Representatives passed a CR on Tuesday that will keep the federal government operating until Dec. 11. The Senate will vote on the CR next Tuesday.
A key issue that needed to be resolved before the CR passed the House was replenishing the Commodity Credit Corp. The House Democrats and the White House reached a bipartisan agreement that provides $21 billion requested by the administration for the CCC. The CR prohibits any CCC payments to fossil fuel refiners and importers, and blocks bailouts for fossil fuel companies that defied the renewable fuel standard program.
The CR also provides an additional $8 billion for nutrition assistance. This includes a one-year extension of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program which provides resources to families with children whose schools are closed to replace the free or reduced-price meals they would have received at school.
The original CR released by the Democratic leadership did not include funds for the CCC arguing there was no accountability or oversight on USDA's use of the funds and Trump was using it for election year purposes. Agricultural organizations and Republicans took issue with the proposal saying if the CCC was not funded it would delay critical farm programs and limit risk management tools. Also, a number of Democratic members from the Midwest and members of the House Agriculture Committee argued that the funds were needed to ensure producers would benefit on a timely basis.
Congress will have to deal with another CR after it returns from the November election.
The Mandatory Price Reporting program which expires on Sept. 30 was extended through the CR until Dec. 11.
Producers seek additional support
As Congress started to develop a CR, a group of 42 agricultural and producer organizations called on Congress to provide the necessary funding to provide the USDA with the resources to support farmers and ranchers. The group asked that Congress reimburse the CCC in the CR that will keep the federal government operating past the end of this fiscal year.
The organizations said in a letter to the House and Senate leadership, "More than ever, farmers and ranchers need the certainty and support provided by farm programs. Low commodity prices, unjustified retaliatory tariffs, natural disasters and a global pandemic have placed a tremendous burden on farm country. USDA's most recent farm income projections forecast that cash receipts will be at their lowest level in more than a decade. Coupled with rising farm debt and a decrease in working capital, producers face challenges not experienced in decades."
The concern is if the CCC is not replenished USDA payments and programs would be "significantly delayed" that producers depend upon including Agricultural Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage, Dairy Margin Coverage, Marketing Loan Assistance, conservation programs and others.
Those signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugar Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen's Beef Nation, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Association and U.S. Rice Producers Association.
Supreme Court nomination to consume the Senate
Senate Republicans are moving forward to consider President Trump's eventual nominee to the Supreme Court even though four years ago they refused to consider President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing that it should not be considered before the election. Trump plans to announce his nominee tomorrow.
It is yet to be determined if the Senate will vote on the nomination before the election or during the lame duck session. This will politicize the Senate even more than it is already.
Food Safety advisory committee appointments
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the appointment of 10 individuals to the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection.
Those appointed to two-year terms were:
- Gregory Gunthorp, Gunthorp Farms
- Alice Johnson, Butterball LLC
- Denise Perry, Lorentz Meats
- Sarah Sorscher, Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Teresa Schwartz, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (ret.)
Five previous NACMPI members' terms were extended by one year:
- Amilton De Mello, University of Nevada
- Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America
- James Jenkins, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
- Tina Rendon, Pilgrim's Pride Corp.
- Kimberly Rice, Rose Acre Farms
See the full list of NACMPI members.
NACMPI was established in 1971 and advises USDA on food safety issues, inspection program activities and food safety policies.