Federal agencies that serve farmers and many others are back in business this week, but the challenges in getting services back up to speed after the longest shutdown ever will be daunting. USDA, USTR, EPA, the IRS and other agencies will take weeks or months to recover from the 35-day partial government shutdown as they deal with mountains of backlogged work and housekeeping tasks.
USDA must still implement a farm bill, EPA a rule for year-round E15 use, USTR has more trade talks with China, new ones with Japan and the UK, and the IRS has mountains of tax returns and other requests to process. American Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President Dale Moore looks at the challenges ahead, especially with the farm bill.
“There are a lot of changes, and the ability of farmers to come in and sign up for the coming crop year, particularly given where the markets have been…this is certainly going to be a challenge…and certainly one we’re hoping gets resolved very soon.”
Moore says there was already a tight window to implement the new farm bill and having just three weeks of certain funding for affected agencies, adds even more pressure.
USTR was also shut down, except for top trade officials…and while China talks continued, those with Japan and UK didn’t start, and AFB’s Dave Salmonsen says a key report on the US-Mexico-Canada FTA was delayed.
“By mid-March, originally, now that might be delayed with the shutdown, the International Trade Commission is due to deliver a report to Congress about the economic impacts, overall, from the USMCA, then Congress will be awaiting the administration to submit, basically, the implementing legislation.”
But given the toxic political climate, the question is, can the two parties agree on an implementing bill?
“I think they’re willing to engage on the agreement, but you have to have the right political environment. You need to gather support, you have to be willing to work together. That may take a while to get back to that right environment.”
Especially with the President threatening another shutdown, or unilateral action on a border wall, in three-weeks.
A top EPA official meantime, says the agency can still complete a rule for year-round use of E15-blended gasoline by the June start of the summer driving season, which still raises the issue of how many filling stations will be ready to sell the product so soon after a rule is issued.
Source: National Association of Farm Broadcasters