(NAFB)--Mainly due to the dispute between Republicans and Democrats over the Affordable Care Act - Congress was unable to avoid a federal government shutdown. A partial shutdown started today (Tuesday) for the first time in 17 years. Reuters reports House Republicans did float a late offer to break the logjam - but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected the idea. He said Democrats wouldn't enter into formal negotiations on spending with a gun to their head in the form of government shutdowns. The USDA website has gone dark. There is now a note about the lapse in federal government funding and a link to USDA Contingency Plans. The shutdown won't directly affect the core mission of the Food Safety Inspection Service. Inspectors will remain on the job. But enrollment for the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program will stop. CRP was of course one of the programs set to expire in the farm bill - which was allowed to expire overnight as well. The American Soybean Association lamented another failed opportunity on the part of Congress to provide the nation's soybean farmers with the certainty they need to remain competitive and plan for the future. ASA President Danny Murphy says Congress failed its most basic duty - to debate and pass legislation. He notes the farm bill authorized and provided critical funding for several programs farmers depend on - including key conservation programs, indispensable foreign food assistance and market development activities and industry-advancing research. Murphy says these and other programs helped make American agriculture a bright spot throughout the recession and into the recovery. But according to Murphy - because Congress is more interested in scoring partisan political points that serving its constituents - those programs have come to a grinding halt. He says American farmers are paying the price for Congressional inaction.
Programs impacted by the farm bill expiration include CRP, the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, the Emerging Markets Program, the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program. Murphy says the expiration of funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program will bring immediate and harsh consequences for the soy industry. He says the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health - the overseas market development arms of ASA - count on critical funds from both programs to operate offices and carry out demand building work around the globe. Without funds from USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service - Murphy says the industry will be forced to discontinue program activities.
Murphy says the closing of USDA agencies due to the government shutdown adds to the frustration. He says farmers depend on these agencies and have a longstanding and valuable working relationship with their federal partners at USDA. He says their absence for the forseeable future will be painfully apparent.