Worries about the expiration of the 2008 farm bill – a done deal as of midnight Monday – have been pushed aside as a few hours still remain for Congress to somehow find a way to avert a shutdown of the government.

What might a shutdown do in U.S. farm country?

A document from a USDA website, updated Sept. 27, says the department is working to ensure that we are prepared for all possible scenarios. Agency operational plans are still being finalized, but in the event of a government shutdown most USDA activities would be shut down or significantly reduced and most USDA employees would be furloughed

“However, certain USDA activities would continue because they are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property, or are financed through available funding (such as through user fees).” Such activities include, “care for animals, plants and associated infrastructure to protect U.S. Government property.”

Among USDA activities that would not continue during a government shutdown:

  • Market news reports, NASS statistics, and other agricultural economic and statistical reports and projections would be discontinued.
  • Research facilities would be closed except for the care for animals, plants and associated infrastructure to preserve agricultural research.
  • Provision of new grants or processing of payments for existing grants to support research, education, and Extension.
  • ERS Commodity Outlook Reports, Data Products, research reports, staff analysis, and projections would be discontinued. The ERS public website would be taken offline.

   For more, see here.

On the farm bill front, on Saturday (September 28), the House passed a rule that would again combine farm and nutrition programs. The action – passed on a 226 to 191 vote – means the House will send the Senate a comprehensive bill to consider. The Senate is expected to snub the House bill, which would then set the table for a conference to work out a deal over a new farm bill.

Today’s actions should pave the way for the farm bill to be completed this year,” said Roger Johnson, president of National farmers Union, after the House vote. “Extending the 2008 farm bill again is not an adequate solution. While it is obvious we will not have a completed farm bill by its expiration on Sept. 30, I urge House leadership to appoint conferees so that the process of conferencing the Senate and House versions of the bill can begin right away.

“NFU will continue to advocate for a five-year, comprehensive farm bill to be completed in the next month.”

Meanwhile, just hours before a government shutdown, an ecumenical coalition of faith leaders derided those in Congress calling for a government shutdown and/or default on the government’s debt.

The letter signed by some 30 religious leaders can be read here.

“Shutting down the government will do real damage,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, on Monday morning. “Risking our nation’s creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put the brakes on our economy.”

 

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The letter states:

“Shuttering the federal government or defaulting on the nation’s financial commitments is likely to reverse our fragile economic recovery, punish the middle class, and deeply harm our most vulnerable neighbors…

“Our democracy rests on principles of reason, compromise, and a commitment to the common good. To hold our governance processes and financial credibility hostage to narrow priorities is not only dangerous to the nation’s near term financial being, it threatens the very foundations of our democratic process and our capacity to live united. We ask that congressional leadership of both parties stand strong in opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.”