Congress facing critical fiscal deadlines

Legislative Watch: USDA establishes FAD zone in the Caribbean; Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act approved; USDA assistant secretary for civil rights.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

September 24, 2021

3 Min Read

The United States is facing a potential fiscal crisis. In six days, fiscal year 2021 ends, and if Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution, the federal government will shut down. The White House this week informed agencies to prepare for a possible shutdown.

Also, in mid-October, the government will reach its debt ceiling limit. Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling, or it will put U.S. credit at risk. 

The debt limit is the maximum amount the U.S. is allowed to borrow to pay its debt. If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. would not be able to pay its bills and could default.  Raising the debt ceiling is not for new spending but for the U.S. to pay for spending it already approved. The debt ceiling was first established in 1917 with a limit of $11.5 billion.

On Sept. 21, the House passed legislation that would fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt ceiling, thus avoiding a fiscal crisis. However, the House bill will not pass the Senate next week because it needs 60 votes to pass, which means 10 Republican Senators would have to vote for the bill. Republicans have indicated they will not support raising the debt ceiling, in opposition to President Biden’s spending plan.

USDA establishes foreign animal disease zone in the Caribbean

USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Sept. 17 issued a Federal Order suspending the interstate movement of all live swine, swine germplasm, swine products, and swine byproducts from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to the mainland United States until APHIS can establish sufficient mitigations to authorize such movement.

The Federal Order is the latest action in a series of safeguards needed to establish an African Swine Fever (ASF) protection zone in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In July, APHIS confirmed ASF in the Dominican Republic and increased surveillance and mitigations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This week, APHIS announced that ASF is in Haiti. ASF has not been detected in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Preserve agricultural fairs

The House Agriculture Committee approved the “Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act” which would provide $500 million in federal grants for state and county fairs to help offset the financial losses due to COVID-19.

President of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions Marla Calico said, “Less than two dozen agricultural fairs in the U.S. were allowed to operate in 2020 after the pandemic was declared. With about 2,000 state and county fairs happening in normal times, this means that there was over $4.57 billion loss of economic activity across the nation and thousands of lost jobs in every corner of the country. The impact, especially to rural communities where the fair is the No. 1 economic engine, has been devastating.”

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Congressmen Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Billy Long, R-Mo., Mike Levin, D-Calif., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

Schlanger for USDA assistant secretary for civil rights

President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Margo Schlanger as assistant secretary for civil rights at USDA. Schlanger is a veteran civil rights lawyer and currently teaches at the University of Michigan Law School. Schlanger was the presidentially appointed civil rights officer for the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 and 2011, and she also has served as a trial attorney and senior trial attorney in the Justice Department's civil rights division. Schlanger is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School. Following law school, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for two years.

Sources: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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