The Government Shutdown

I found a really interesting article on this morning that explained to a little more about the effects that the government shutdown and the expiration of the Farm Bill has had on agriculture. I haven’t had much time this past week to really do some in-depth research of the effects and what exactly is and has gone one but the article really quickly explained it to me. It briefly broke down what has happened within the FDA, the USDA, and the Center for Disease Control.

The FDA oversees roughly 85% of the nation’s food supply. Forty-five percent of its workforce, which is approximately 6,600 people, is furloughed. Nearly all furloughs are on the food side of the agency. Unlike the USDA, FDA doesn’t require onsite inspectors for food facilities to operate, so companies with facilities regulated by FDA, like produce and seafood, will not need to close their doors. If the shutdown continues for an extended period of time, a backlog of audits could create problems for inspectors, and facilities due for inspection, upon their return to work.

The USDA oversees roughly 15% of the nation’s food supply, including meat, poultry and processed eggs. The government shutdown and Farm Bill expiration both affect USDA. While some staff have been furloughed, 87% are still on the job, including most of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Considered essential, FSIS inspectors will continue on-site inspections and the food facilities they oversee can continue to operate. Although the legislation expiration, major programs, including direct payments and crop insurance, will continue because those are authorized under permanent law and not subject to annual appropriations. Due to the shutdown, however, Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices are closed, making it more difficult for farmers to process loans and payments. Also due to the Farm Bill expiration, funding expired for a host of conservation programs, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), Healthy Forest Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). This means that payments for these programs will not be sent until appropriations to fund government are made.

CDC plays a role in tracking and tracing food illness outbreaks. Due to the government shutdown, the CDC will have a significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, process laboratory samples or maintain the agency’s 24/7 emergency operations center. the agency will also not conduct multi-state outbreak investigations or support state investigations. Additionally, it will be unable to support the annual influenza program that facilitates outbreak investigations or support state investigations. Additionally, it will be unable to support the annual influenza program that facilitates outbreak detection and linking across state boundaries during flu season.

The government shutdown and Farm Bill expiration are notable, to be sure. The effects will be different for producers and processors, and will vary depending on industry sector. For the time being, most food facilities can continue operating and payments for most farm programs will continue, but key marketing decisions will have to be made “blind” by producers. ¬†Things will become more complicated if the shutdown persists, as workloads will pile up for regulators the longer the shutdown lasts. Congress is currently moving towards farm Bill conference negotiations. The Senate re-appointed its conferees and the House is closing to naming theirs. A key sign will be whether House Republicans appoint conferees primarily from the House Agriculture Committee or whether members outside of that committee are appointed. If the former, then the likelihood for conference negotiations to produce a final bill that can pass both chambers is greater.

I know this sounds like a bunch of technical jargon but this is just an overview of the article. There is so much more going on with the government shutdown. Has anyone been personally affected by this shutdown?