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Government heads toward shutdown

Legislative Watch: Government shutdown looms; farm bill signed; antibiotics use goes down; Round 2 of trade mitigation payments; ag needs to be in EU trade pact.

The federal government is heading to a year-end shutdown with President Trump threatening to veto any continuing resolution that does not include funding for a border wall. Trump indicates it could be a long shut-down unless he gets money for the wall.

The House of Representatives yesterday passed on a party-line vote a CR that provides over $5 billion for a border wall. Earlier, the Senate had passed a CR that would have kept the government operating until Feb. 8, but did not include funding for a wall. It will take Democratic votes to pass any CR compromise.

The shutdown will begin at midnight tonight if Congress and the president fail to reach an agreement. Departments affected by a shutdown will include USDA, Environmental Protection Agency, Interior and the Food and Drug Administration. Essential services will continue to operate at USDA during the shutdown including food safety inspection.

Trump signs farm bill
President Trump signed into law H.R. 2, the “Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018.” The five-year farm bill is estimated to cost $867 billion over 10 years. The bill continues many of the farm programs of the 2014 farm bill — Agriculture Risk Coverage; the Price Loss Coverage program; and the Marketing Assistance Loans with loan deficiency payments.

It establishes a vaccine bank, restores funding for trade promotion programs, increases commodity loan rates, increases Conservation Reserve Program acres, legalizes industrial hemp and re-establishes an undersecretary of Rural Development. The bill does not expand the work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that was contained in the original House bill.

With the farm bill not including a change in work requirements for SNAP participants, the USDA announced it would be proposing a rule that will tighten the requirements for states to receive waivers from the SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. The proposed rule would prevent states from issuing waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7% or higher. The waiver would be for one year. States would not be able to grant waivers for geographic areas larger than a specific jurisdiction. The USDA estimates the rule would save $15 billion over 10 years.

The rule is expected to face Congressional and legal challenges next year.

Antibiotics use down 33%
Domestic drug sales of medically important antimicrobials for food-producing animals dropped by 33% between 2016 and 2017. The FDA’s “2017 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals” also found that domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials dropped 43% since 2015 (peak year of sales and distribution) and decreased 28% since the first year of reported sales in 2009.

This is the first report by the FDA since implementation of Guidance for Industry 213 which eliminated growth promotion, feed efficiency of medically important drugs.

USDA announces second round of trade mitigation payments
USDA announced that President Donald Trump approved the second round of payments for the Market Facilitation Program authorized for trade mitigation. Producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, sorghum, pork, dairy, shelled almonds and sweet cherries are eligible to receive payments for the second half of their 2018 production.

Direct payments from MFP are expected to total $9.6 billion with 75% going to soybean farmers.

Producers need to sign up at their local Farm Service Agency before Jan. 15 to be eligible for both rounds of payments.

Ag must be part of any EU-U.S. trade agreement
A coalition of 53 agricultural organizations in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative says that any trade agreement between the United States and the European Union must address the EU’s restrictive tariff and non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. agricultural products.

The coalition says, “Our trade deficit in food and agricultural goods with the EU has ballooned from $1.8 billion in 2000 to nearly $11 billion last year. This is not because European consumers do not want American products. It is because EU tariffs and non-science-based regulations deny consumers a choice.”

The EU has said that agriculture would not be a part of the trade negotiations. According to the coalition, “If the EU wishes to conclude a trade agreement that addresses inequities in trade between us and that ultimately will be approved by Congress, such barriers and measures that restrict U.S. agriculture’s access, as politically difficult to discuss as they may be, must be included as part of negotiations and successfully addressed in a final agreement.”

According to the National Pork Producers Council, the EU’s high tariffs and sanitary and phytosanitary requirements limits U.S. pork exports to the “second largest pork-consuming market in the world to less than 4,000 metric tons in 2017. The United States sends more pork to countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Singapore than it does to the EU.”

Those signing the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, Animal Health Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute and U.S. Meat Export Federation.

TAGS: Regulatory
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