"CONGRESS has yet again failed in its most basic duty — to debate and pass legislation — and frankly, we've run out of ways to say we're disappointed," said Dan Murphy, president of the American Soybean Assn.
Murphy's sentiments are likely shared widely among the countryside as it faces the trifecta that came into fruition Oct. 1 as the government shut down, including all non-essential employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture being furloughed, the farm bill expiring and another round of budget sequestration cuts taking effect.
Many issues are at play, including deep philosophical differences beyond just the numbers for spending that extrapolate out to the farm bill, the debt ceiling and any other policy decisions that need to be made.
At the end of the day, we don't know what will be in the pot of stew Congress cooks up, Dave Ladd, president of RDL & Associates, said.
Ladd explained that the government shutdown delays further action on a farm bill and asked: "Even if we were to get to a conference report on the farm bill — and that remains an open question — where is it going to fall on the agenda? Is it a back-burner item?"
There is widespread skepticism on whether the House will even name farm bill conferees and, if they do, whether non-agriculture committee influencers will be allowed to shape the policy traditionally left to those serving agricultural constituents.
On Sept. 28, the House approved the rule to allow for debate over the government funding bill without any delays, a rule that also combined the farm-only and nutrition-only farm bills into a single comprehensive bill.
It remains to be seen whether this vote will lead to the House appointing its farm bill conferees and starting the House/Senate farm bill conference. The Senate renamed its conferees, with a list of farm-state legislators on the slate.
Significant differences exist in the commodity titles as well as wide spending differences within the nutritional titles of the two bills.
"If leadership or the White House could just give a number (on the target for cuts), legislators could get the policy to fit," Ladd added.
That's not the case with the big-ticket philosophical differences that have bogged down funding talks.
We're on pace to breach the debt ceiling sometime between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5, so if the latest trifecta wasn't enough, there's another fiscal crisis just around the corner.
Sequestration kicks in
The Farm Service Agency issued a summary of the sequestration policy for fiscal 2014 that it began implementing last Tuesday.
"The programs, which provide interim financing for agricultural commodities to be stored after harvest and sold throughout the year when unaffected by harvest season pressure on prices, are subject to sequester reductions of 5.1%," the announcement said.
With commodity loan programs operating on a crop year basis and Sept. 30 marking the end of the federal fiscal year, adjustments will occur for the 2013 crop year, which include the following: loan making for all commodities was suspended on Oct. 1 and is targeted to resume mid-October; loan repayment and servicing for all disbursed commodity loans will continue; beginning in mid-October, the 2013 crop loans and, if applicable, loan deficiency payments will receive 5.1% reductions, and 2013 crop loan rates are not affected.