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Government Relations & Washington Update

October 2023

Congress Passes CR, Averts Shutdown
On September 30th, the House of Representatives was able to pass a short-term continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government through November 17th. This will enable key USDA agencies such as ERS and NIFA to continue operations without disruption. The measure does not include funding for Ukraine but does provide $16 billion for disaster relief. The bill also extends the authority of programs that were set to expire including: Federal Aviation Administration, Animal drug user fees, Community health centers and pandemic preparedness authorities and the National Flood Insurance Program.

Speaker McCarthy had attempted previously to pass continuing resolutions that would have cut domestic spending and omitted funding for disaster relief and Ukraine. Those packages were unanimously opposed by Democrats and several Republicans who argued that the provisions did not go far enough to reduce spending and address border security. As a result, it was widely expected that the government would shut down at midnight on September 30th. However, in a surprise move, the package passed by McCarthy garnered significant Democratic support, enabling the bill to succeed by a vote of 335-91. The Senate quickly followed by overwhelmingly passing the continuing resolution 88-9. President Biden signed the bill the night of the 30th. In the aftermath of the vote, several Republicans who have been critical of McCarthy indicated that they would move forward with an attempt to oust him from the Speaker’s position. Rules making it easier to remove the Speaker were negotiated when McCarthy was elected in January.

Agriculture Appropriations Bill Defeated on House Floor
The House of Representatives is working to advance each of the twelve annual appropriations bills separately. The House has recently approved four appropriations bills covering Defense, Military Construction, Foreign Operations and Homeland Security. The House brought forward the FY 2024 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on September 28th for floor consideration. The bill failed to gain approval by a vote of 191-237.  Twenty-seven Republicans joines Democrats in defeating the bill. The package has drawn criticism for making significant reductions in USDA and FDA programs. The next steps in House consideration of the bill are currently unclear.  Meanwhile, the Senate is taking the approach of grouping appropriations bills together into a series of “mini-bus” packages. However, Senate leaders have also faced some resistance in moving the “mini-bus” package of the Agriculture, Military Construction and Transportation appropriations bills. The recent passage of the short-term continuing resolution gives the House and Senate some additional time to identify a pathway to move the appropriations bills forward.

Agriculture Committees Continue Work on Farm Bill
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are continuing their work to craft Farm Bill reauthorization, but, as expected, they were not able to complete new legislation before the previous Farm Bill authorities expired on September 30th. There has been some discussion about a short-term extension, but Congressional leaders have been focusing more attention on averting a government shutdown. The impact of Farm Bill expiration varies among different programs. Some programs, including many conservation and nutrition programs, are provided mandatory funding through the Farm Bill and would expire at the end of September. Other programs are only authorized by the farm bill and funded through appropriations, this includes most research programs. Commodity programs operate on a crop year basis, so there would not be an immediate impact of expiration. Dairy is usually the first sector impacted by a new crop year. Without an extension of commodity programs by the beginning of the new crop year, USDA would revert to permanent authority from the 1938 and 1949 Farm Bills. Programs like crop insurance have permanent authority and would not be impacted by an expiration of the Farm Bill. In recent statements, both Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Chairman Thompson (R-PA) sounded optimistic that the Farm Bill can still be completed by the end of the calendar year.

NIFA Hosts Webinar on Using PubAg to Share USDA Supported Work
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the National Agricultural Library are holding a an informational webinar on Tuesday, October 17, at 1 p.m. CDT for an informational webinar on involving public access to scholarly publication and digital scientific research data assets. This webinar will provide details on how to meet the requirements under Departmental Regulation (DR) 1020-006 to submit final, peer-reviewed, accepted manuscripts to PubAg, the USDA public access archive system. All NIFA awardees and contractors who are engaged in USDA-supported scientific research are encouraged to attend. Public access is a major component of the USDA and NIFA’s efforts to promote Open Science. Departmental Regulation (DR) 1020-006 makes all peer-reviewed, scholarly publications and digital scientific research data assets arising from unclassified scientific research, supported wholly or in part by the USDA, accessible to the public to the extent practicable. DR 1020-006 applies to NIFA grant awards, cooperative agreements and contracts having started on or after October 1, 2022. Click HERE for more information and to register for the webinar.