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Congress returns with funding the federal government first on agenda

Congress has yet to finalize any of the 12 Fiscal Year rsquo17 appropriations bills
<p>Congress has yet to finalize any of the 12 Fiscal Year &rsquo;17 appropriations bills. </p>
Low commodity prices contribute&nbsp;to third-straight year of declining farm incomes.&nbsp;

Congress returns to work tomorrow after a seven-week summer break with a number of funding items to be resolved before they leave the end of the month for the November election. The major issue to be addressed is how to keep the federal government operating when the fiscal year 2016 appropriations ends on Sept. 30. Congress has yet to finalize any of the 12 Fiscal Year ’17 appropriations bills and thus will have to pass a continuing resolution or the federal government will shut down at midnight on Sept. 30. 

The question for Congress is will it be a short-term CR until sometime in December or one that runs until March of next year. The House Freedom Caucus (Tea Party) wants a six-month CR. They have threatened to withhold their support for a short-term CR because they do not want any last-minute end-of-the year agreements with the Obama administration. The problem is the White House or the Congressional Democrats will not be supportive of this and will have issues they would like addressed before President Obama’s term in office ends. The Democrats are urging passage of a short-term CR until Dec. 8. The issue will be settled in the next couple of weeks before Congress leaves for the October recess. 

Another key issue will be funding for the Zika virus. This is a priority for the Florida delegation. During the next four weeks that Congress is scheduled to be in session we can expect a great amount of rhetoric on issues for campaign purposes knowing that nothing will happen until after the election. 

A key issue for the biofuels industry when Congress returns after the election is tax extenders for biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and biofuel pumps. They expire on Dec. 31.  

2016 net farm income estimated at $71.5 billion
USDA’s Economic Research Service is estimating net farm income at $71.6 billion for 2016. This is an improvement compared to ERS’ February estimate of $54.8 billion. However, this will be the third-straight year of declining net farm income. In 2014, net farm income was $92.6 billion. Even with lower production costs, increased production and higher government support, lower prices are the main reason for the drop in net farm income. Cash receipts this year for crops, livestock and animal sales are estimated to total $353 billion which is a decrease of 7% from last year’s $379 billion. Total expenses are estimated at $349 billion, 3% lower than last year. The decline in expenses was due to lower spending on livestock and poultry purchases, fertilizer and fuel.

FDA to delay new salt guidelines
The Food and Drug Administration announced it is delaying until Oct. 17 the deadline for public comments on its “Draft Guidance to Industry for Voluntarily Reducing Sodium.”

FDA notes that more than 70% of the sodium people consume does not come from the salt shaker but is already in their food. FDA now recognizes that it may be difficult for consumers to change their sodium intake without food manufacturers reformulating the ingredients in their products. It is estimated that most Americans consume approximately 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. 

FDA would like to initially lower the level of consumption to 3,000 milligrams per day and then in 10 years to 2,300 milligrams per day. FDA says, “Americans consume almost 50% more sodium than what most experts recommend. ... One in three individuals has high blood pressure, which has been linked to diets high in sodium and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.”

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