By Lowell Randel, ASAS D.C. Representatives
Washington Roundup – January 2018
After Short Shutdown, Government Operating Under New Continuing Resolution
Congress continues to work towards finalizing appropriations for fiscal year 2017, but progress has been slowed due to controversy around immigration policy. Congressional Democrats are pushing for legislative action to address the fate of so-called “Dreamers”, who were illegally brought into the United States as children. Controversy over the policy led to a government shutdown when the Senate failed to pass a continuing resolution to extend government funding. A deal was struck on the third day of the shutdown that funds the government through February 8th. The short duration of the shutdown meant that few impacts were felt across the country. With the next deadline approaching fast, Congressional leaders are facing increased pressure to address not only FY 2017 funding, but also immigration policy to avoid another government shutdown.
USDA Releases Farm Bill Principles
On January 24th, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles. Perdue made the announcement while touring agricultural locations in Pennsylvania and stated that the principles will be used as a road map for the next Farm Bill. He acknowledged that it is the job of Congress to write the Farm Bill, but that USDA will be there as a resource throughout the process.
The document highlights principles for each USDA Mission Area as well as for USDA management. The policies included are very high-level statements and do not include specifics on individual programs. The document also does not suggest specific funding levels or policy changes for the Farm Bill. Below are the principles included for the REE Mission Area:
RESEARCH, EDUCATION & ECONOMICS
•Commit to a public research agenda that places the United States at the forefront of food and agriculture scientific development.
•Develop an impact evaluation approach, including the use of industry panels, to align research priorities to invest in high priority innovation, technology, and education networks.
•Empower public-private partnerships to leverage federal dollars, increase capacity, and investments in infrastructure for modern food and agricultural science.
•Prioritize investments in education, training and the development of human capital to ensure a workforce capable of meeting the growing demands of food and agriculture science.
•Develop and apply integrated advancement in technology needed to feed a growing and hungry world.
House and Senate Committees Continuing Preparing for Farm Bill
The House Agriculture Committee is working to have Farm Bill legislation ready to unveil by March. Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has stated that the committee has submitted language to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and is waiting on cost estimates for the proposals. The results from CBO will help the committee determine if changes are needed to stay within budget parameters. The Senate Agriculture Committee is also hoping to make progress on the Farm Bill during the first quarter of 2018. Movement early in 2018 will be important because passing major legislation like a Farm Bill is difficult in election years.
While the overall budget for the Farm Bill is expected to be very tight, provisions in disaster relief legislation could help take some pressure off the Farm Bill. The House passed a disaster bill in December 2017 that includes provisions altering support programs for cotton and dairy. Making these changes through the disaster bill would free up some Farm Bill resources to support other programs. The Senate has yet to act on disaster relief.