A possible government shutdown is now just two weeks away, and things are going sideways on both sides of Capitol Hill.

House Republicans continue to struggle to agree on a continuing resolution that’s needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30. Meanwhile, the Senate was unable this week to get agreement to debate a package of three relatively non-controversial spending bills, including the funding measure for USDA and FDA. 

Without that agreement, which is being blocked by some hard-line GOP conservatives, the Senate would have to consider the bills one at a time, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is unlikely to devote time to that. 

Amendment watch: Senators continue to file amendments they want to see debated as part of the stalled spending package. 

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., has filed one that would block USDA from finalizing new animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry. The Organic Trade Association called the amendment “unjust and unwarranted” and part of an effort to “dismantle the National Organic Program.”

Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., filed amendments that would ban the use of imported beef in school meals and bar USDA from funding the promotion of cell-cultured meat products. 

House GOP to move budget resolution

The House Budget Committee is expected to consider a fiscal 2024 budget resolution next week, but the measure may not offer much, if any help, to farm bill writers. To start with, there’s no clear path for the budget plan to pass the full House, given that it would likely have no Democratic support, and Republicans are having so much trouble agreeing among themselves on annual appropriations bills.  

House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., has been struggling to come up with new sources of money for the farm bill. and had a number of conversations with Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, earlier this year. But as of Thursday afternoon, Thompson hadn’t been briefed about what’s going to be in the budget resolution. 

Thompson told Agri-Pulse he would be concerned about including any new cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “I think it would be disrespectful only because we've already addressed SNAP” in the debt-ceiling agreement, Thompson said. 

Take note: We’re hearing USDA could have an announcement as soon as today on use of Commodity Credit Corporation funding for market promotion and international food aid. The funding requested by leaders of the Senate Ag Committee could relieve some budget pressure on the farm bill.

Stabenow: Farm bill should address all commodities

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., used an appearance before the International Fresh Produce Association to defend her efforts on behalf of fruit and vegetable growers. 

She said it’s important for the farm bill to represent all of agriculture. “We’re hearing folks saying that commodities are the heart and soul of the farm bill. Hello, that affects 20 crops,” Stabenow said, referring to crops covered by the commodity title programs. 

“Crop insurance affects 130 crops. And in Michigan we’ve got 300 different crops, most of them specialty crops,” Stabenow said.

She said her position is being interpreted that she doesn’t see traditional commodities as important. “Of course, they are. But agriculture is broader than that,” she said.

Senate Ag Rs raise concerns on IRA funding

The Senate Ag Committee’s GOP staff has issued a report arguing that the conservation program funding in the Inflation Reduction Act is leaving out a lot of needs in farming country. The IRA funding is devoted to climate-smart farming practices. 

According to the GOP report, 51% of the funding USDA distributed through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program in 2020 through 2022 was earmarked for practices that wouldn’t qualify as climate-smart. 

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So, “it’s clear that most of the practices farmers and ranchers are implementing to meet their conservation or sustainability goals will not be supported by the IRA” funding, the report says. 

USDA’s take: “Contrary to what this analysis tries to portray, funding through the Inflation Reduction Act is helping more farmers than ever adopt the most innovative and effective types of conservation practices, and the programs are so popular that demand remains higher than the amount of funding available. The assertion that these new streams somehow take away from existing farm bill programs simply doesn’t add up – those traditional funds are still available.”

Why it matters: Republicans would like to bring the IRA funding into the farm bill, but they’ve got to get Stabenow’s support to do it. And she says there’s strong demand from farmers for climate-related funding.

PNW Republicans criticize White House over Snake River mediation

A group of House Republicans from the Pacific Northwest are criticizing the Biden administration’s mediation efforts in a court case over declining Snake and Columbia River salmon populations. The lawmakers say the administration hasn’t allowed “meaningful input” from members of the region’s agricultural, port and energy sectors.

“It is unacceptable that the mediation negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors via private caucuses to craft concessions to plaintiffs without regard to the impacts to the region’s ratepayers, the economy, or ensuring that the congressionally authorized purposes of the Columbia River System are met,” Reps. Cliff Bentz of Oregon, Cathy McMorris Rogers and Dan Newhouse of Washington, Russ Fulcher of Idaho and Matt Rosendale of Montana say in a letter to Council of Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory.

China drives corn, soy trade into new marketing year

The new 2023-24 marketing years for corn and soybeans began Sept. 1, and Chinese trade drove much of the trade activity for the first week, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service

Chinese customers contracted to buy 173,900 metric tons of U.S. corn (out of a total of 753,300 tons of export sales) as well as 295,500 tons of U.S. soybeans (out of a total of 703,900 tons) during the week of Sept. 1-7.

Take note: The U.S. is still selling and shipping rice to Haiti despite the turmoil in the country. Net sales of U.S. rice for the week totaled 67,200 tons, including 15,200 tons to Haitian buyers. 

He said it. “There's nothing more America First than a good strong farm bill that protects America's producers, who by the way face a number of challenges that you don't face in other industries, and direct threats that other industries don't necessarily face.” – Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., when asked on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers about the case for more farm bill spending when Republicans are pushing for cuts in government funding. 

Newsmakers will be available today at Agri-Pulse.com.