Two weeks. That’s how much time is left before the House of Representatives goes home for the holidays. At the same time, the Senate isn’t in Washington this week, so that leaves only a week for both houses of Congress to work together to get any more legislation done before the end of the year. Even for farmers and ranchers, the overarching issue is the budget.
“A lot of the work that needs to get done seems to be getting the issues that are important to farmers and ranchers tangled around that axle of the federal budget process.”
American Farm Bureau public policy director Dale Moore says progress on that budget process is a bit of a question mark, but one thing is for sure. Without an agreement below certain levels, the government will be hit with another round of sequestration. That means mandatory budget cuts.
“That’s going to have a direct impact on farmers and ranchers, whether it has to do with payments or program availability. As the sequestration kicks in, it’s affecting a number of different budgets for agencies that we traditionally don’t think of as directly impacting agriculture, but it could be as simple as needing to get a permit done through EPA and how that may slow that process up.”
Moore says sequestration will get more and more painful.
“When ranchers are dealing with drought they feed up their winter hay in the nice weather months, drought notwithstanding. So when the winter does get around there’s not much left in the hay barn to take care of the livestock. That seems to be where we’re headed here. We’re using that winter hay from the budget standpoint. You know the reserves keep getting smaller because the sequestration takes away from those. Eventually the pain starts getting deep enough they will come to an agreement.”
There are reports that House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders continued to talk last week and that Senate members of the conference committee could be called back to Washington for an open conference meeting on the bill.