September 25, Washington D.C. – “As Congress begins to recover from Pope Francis’ visit to the Capitol and process House Leader Boehner’s (R-OH) announcement that he will leave Congress in October, it will once again be facing the task of how to fund the government and prevent a shutdown with only days left before the end of the fiscal year.
If Congress does not approve and the President does not sign funding legislation by midnight on September 30, the government will shut down as it did for 16 days October of 2013.
This is in addition to all the other items Congress must address this fall.
What Will a Shutdown Mean for Agriculture
Without new funding, come October 1 USDA will not be able make new farm and rural development loans, most USDA offices will close, and many crop reports will not be issued impacting farmers and rural communities.
One of the biggest impacts of a shut down that will be different then the 2013 shutdown is the suspension of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. SNAP funds are transferred each month to the debit cards of eligible households so that they can purchase groceries. During the last shutdown USDA was able to use already appropriated funds to keep the program going during the shutdown.
Those funds are no longer available and the program will be suspended starting October 1 until a new funding bill is signed into law.
What’s is the Continuing Resolution’s impact on Agriculture
While CR’s generally simply extend all government funding at current levels, they do contain “anomalies.” These are provisions that are added for one reason or another to change policy, increase or decrease funding for specific accounts, and extend expiring programs.
In the case of the CR being considered by the Senate, there are a few anomaly’s impacting USDA.
Section 109: Impacts all government agencies and has the effect of limiting the number of loans that FSA can issue during the duration of the CR. NSAC opposes this provision being included in the CR because the fall and winter is when most farmers need loans to prepare for the next season.
Section 116: Increases funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to cover higher food package costs.
Section 135: Appropriates $700 million in emergency funding for wildfire suppression activates and to refund other Forest Service accounts already raided to pay for firefighting activities.”
This morning I learned of several efforts in my local region to address the lack that de-funding SNAP would cause, e.g. bringing together hunters and food banks to supply a source of protein. Given the critical nature of this resource, check in with your local communities to see what provisions can be made in the case that this does happen.