While reports have emerged that the House will finally name farm bill conferees, the government shutdown has begun to hamstring rural commerce.

“My understanding is that (farm bill) conferees have been selected,” said Chandler Goule, National Farmers Union government affairs, on Thursday (October 10) morning. “But no one is entirely sure of the names on the list. I’m hearing it will be senior members of the House Agriculture Committee – Democrats and Republicans – along with an additional two Republicans. It will be interesting to see who those two Republicans are.

“I was hoping the conferee list would be released today. The later it gets, though, the more everyone seems to think that won’t happen. The House will be working at least through Saturday – so the list may come out before they leave for the Columbus Day holiday.”

Earlier Thursday, NFU President Roger Johnson sent a letter to Congress urging quick action. Johnson pointed to the recent blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle in the Northwest.

“Perhaps most disappointing about all of these manufactured crises, exacerbated by the lapsed farm bill, is that solutions are close at hand but Congress chooses not to execute them,” wrote Johnson.

“The USDA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are prepared to handle events like these, but the government shutdown, along with the expired farm bill, leaves ranchers without the urgent help they need. Both the House and Senate versions of the pending farm bill include a retroactive livestock indemnity provision, which would provide much-needed assistance to ranchers but cannot be accessed because of the legislative stalemate.”

Meanwhile, Goule says currently everyone on Capitol Hill “is focused on what the debt package being floated in the House will look like. On the Senate side, there is a bit of conversation about agriculture being part of the larger budget negotiation.”

Among Goule’s other comments:

On the consequences of the government shutdown…

“We keep telling lawmakers about what this shutdown and lack of a farm bill is doing to farmers. They actually allowed the farm bill to expire!

“Now, farmers don’t have livestock indemnity payments. FSA offices are closed. Conservation payments go out at the beginning of the fiscal year so that means no one has received CRP payments, CSP payments, EQIP payments. FSA loans aren’t being honored, right now. That’s because an FSA officer must co-sign the check and there are none on the job.

“Because of the expired farm bill and a government that is closed down, we have crippled commerce in rural America.

“People really need to call their lawmakers and tell them to pass a five-year farm bill.”

Timetable for a farm bill conference?

“I was hoping it would happen in the next couple of days. But now, as they continue with the funding issues with the government, it will likely be delayed to late (the week of October 14).

“Once the House conferees are named, it starts a 20-day legislative clock to move to conference.”