Friday, October 4, 2013

Statements on Government Shutdown's Effect on Farmers

Here is some comments on what the government shutdown means for the Farm Bill:
Andrew Novakovic, agricultural economist, Farm Bill expert and professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, discusses the impact of the current government shutdown on agriculture-related federal services.
Novakovic has acted as senior economist to the USDA Office of the Chief Economist since 2011. His activities included assisting in analyzing proposals made in connection with agricultural legislation and other issues related to dairy programs.
Novakovic says:
“With the biggest share of government spending mandated under ongoing law, Congress' failure to pass appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014 will have relatively little or no effect on the big ticket items of government. Most of the big-government programs that they believe are out of control will continue unabated because their funding is mandated, non discretionary.
“Instead, a large number of federal workers will get unpaid leave, visitors to D.C. and national parks will find doors barred shut, and all kinds of folks and businesses will find out how much we rely on a myriad of federal reports that are easy to take for granted.
"Retirement programs that calculate benefits based on changes to the Consumer Price Index won't have a new estimate of changes to consumer prices. CME futures markets that cash settle against a federal estimated price won't have a cash price announced. Farmers that had planned to finish that paperwork in their local FSA office will find the door locked.
“With each advancing day, compromise becomes both more necessary and more difficult. And, as the deadline for expanding the debt ceiling gets closer, the stakes are raised. It may be easy to stand by while government workers calculate how long they can go without a paycheck, but the prospect of the government of the world's largest economy and most powerful country reneging on its loan payments is punishing to advocates of fiscal responsibility.
Wednesday the U.S. Senate re-announced its Farm Bill conferees even as House Agriculture Committee Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack despair of being able to find a compromise. 
"The government shutdown in and of itself doesn't impact passage of the next Farm Bill, but the shutdown adds toxins to a political environment in which compromise feels almost impossible.”
This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists:
The Farm Bill officially expired as of Oct. 1. With Congress locked in a stalemate over fiscal and healthcare issues, there is no process to extend or reauthorize the Farm Bill in sight. 
Ironically, a handful of low-cost Farm Bill programs that could improve the health of Americans and save taxpayers billions in health care costs are among the political casualties. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the uncertainty caused by the expiration of the Farm Bill and Congress’ failure to legislate sows doubt, confusion and hunger.

Below is a statement by Daniel Z. Brito, senior Washington representative for UCS’ Food & Environment Program:

“Congressional inaction on the Farm Bill is hurting real people today. Without a new bill or an extension of the 2008 law, some programs will continue from now until December 31, ending only when their funding runs out. Then, the nation will feel the most severe consequences of Congress’ inaction. But in the meantime, there are quiet but very real impacts.

“For example, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program was defunded on Monday. This cost-effective program provides coupons for low-income seniors that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. Congress’ failure to reauthorize this and other Farm Bill programs is keeping healthy food off the plates of hungry consumers, and money out of the pockets of hard-working farmers.

“The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is just the latest program to be put out to pasture. The Farmers Market Promotion Program, a Farm Bill program that provides grants to open new farmers markets, roadside stands or other direct-to-consumer opportunities hasn’t been funded since 2012.
"Despite the missed opportunities in 2013, thankfully, many of the markets that received these grants in years past are thriving. They engage the surrounding community, encourage healthier eating, and often double the value of nutrition assistance dollars redeemed at these markets.

“These programs require only modest funding and have the potential to change communities and lives. Our recent report, “The $11 Trillion Reward,” shows that Farm Bill programs like the Farmers Market Promotion Program can increase access to fruits and vegetables — foods that can significantly reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, the leading killer of Americans. Increasing the public’s consumption of these foods would save an astounding $17 billion in health care costs alone.

“Every day that goes by without a Farm Bill is another lost opportunity to help farmers and consumers, while our national nutrition and healthcare crisis goes unsolved. It’s time for Congress to stop fighting and get to work.”

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