Senate set to approve bill to avoid government shutdown

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2013 - The Senate is expected Friday to approve legislation (H.J.Res.59) aimed at avoiding an Oct. 1 federal government shutdown and keeping departments, including USDA and FDA, funded at FY 2013 levels until mid-November.

The Senate is expected to hold four votes Friday, including a vote on stripping House language that would defund Obamacare. After passage, the bill would be sent back to the House for its consideration. The House is scheduled to convene Saturday to consider the legislation.

Taking to the floor Thursday, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, pressed for congressional passage of the continuing resolution and the FY 2014 agriculture appropriations bill.

“The impact a government shutdown would have on the activities it supports and there would be many negative ripple effects that would come to our nation's economy if that does in fact happen,” Pryor said. “A government shutdown would wreak havoc in our economy.”

While a shutdown would not directly affect the core mission of USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) as inspectors would remain on the job, the workload within other FSIS support functions, such as administrative appeals and labeling, could be impacted. Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program would stop. In addition, a shutdown could halt funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service's Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program.

Agricultural stakeholders are not only waiting on a CR resolution, but on congressional passage of a FY 2014 agricultural appropriations bill as well as a long-term farm bill.

Pryor said the Senate appropriations bill would help farmers with operating loans, conservation projects, and marketing, among other things.

“It also funds programs to benefit rural communities, to do things like supply clean drinking water, it supports nutrition programs, it helps kids all across the country,” Pryor said.

Pryor said agriculture is one of the core strengths in the U.S. economy, and “no one does agriculture better than America.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its agricultural spending bill (S. 1244) on June 20 with a bipartisan 23-6 vote. The bill would provide $20.9 billion to USDA and FDA. It would provide $420 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

The House agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2410) remains stalled after the chamber approved the rule for its consideration on the floor June 26.

While this is generally an imminent sign of legislation moving to the floor, House leadership has since been non-committal on when the bill would be receive floor time. Initially, speculation was that leadership wanted the dust to settle from the first failure of the new farm bill.

The House bill would provide $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below the FY 2013 enacted level and about equal to the current level. The funding would be $516 million below the president's request.

The administration has issued a veto threat of the House bill.

During his floor time, Pryor further urged the House to “follow the Senate's lead” and approve a comprehensive five-year farm bill.

Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee approved late Thursday a resolution allowing the House-passed nutrition bill to be merged with its “farm bill only” farm bill, ahead of the anticipated conference with the Senate.

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