(NAFB)--Congress is returning from the August break with a lot on their plate - including the crisis in Syria, the collapse of the federal budget process, the debt limit, immigration and health care. This means the farm bill - which is set to expire September 30th - is once again fighting for time on the Congressional calendar. While the House and Senate have each approved versions of the farm bill - they must still reconcile the differences in conference. The House split the farm bill be deferring nutrition programs to separate legislation - which they are expected to consider this month. It is also expected House leadership will soon name farm bill conferees. The Senate named conferees before the recess. But even if all goes smoothly - the U.S. Grains Council says the odds of final passage before the end of the fiscal year are slim. The Council does not lobby Congress on legislative issues - but is urging folks to let members of Congress know the clock is ticking and the delay threatens to do severe harm to critical export promotion programs.
USDA’s key export promotion programs - the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program - enjoy broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Unfortunately - the Grains Council notes these programs are held hostage in the ongoing stalemate over other sections of the farm bill. For the Council and other cooperators - the public-private partnership made possible by MAP and FMD matching funds are a key part of international export promotion programs. The Council says an extended delay in reauthorization could quickly force the closure of its foreign offices and the layoff of highly experienced staff in key markets around the world.