President Barack Obama signed the Continuing Resolution into law Wednesday. The American Soybean Association has examined the ramifications of that measure for soybean farmers. ASA President Danny Murphy says the legislation has many different aspects affecting many different industries. While it’s only a temporary extension for the next six months - he says it was necessary to step back and look at how the programs soybean farmers use most will be impacted.
Here’s how ASA breaks down the bill:
Though separate from the CR - ASA notes Congress allowed sequestration to stand. This results in an across-the-board reduction in funding for most federal programs by 5.2-percent. This follows the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 - which placed caps on each of the annual appropriations bills through 2021 - including the Agricultural Appropriations bill. In addition - the CR includes an additional 2.5-percent cut in discretionary spending that USDA will have to carry out before the end of fiscal year 2013.
ASA points out that funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - a priority for the group - was increased. The program is now funded at 274.8-million dollars - 10-million more than in fiscal year 2012. However - as a discretionary program - the initiative will be subject to USDA’s 2.5-percent reduction within the next six months. ASA notes appropriations for research at land-grant universities - which fund ARS and extension activities - all suffered a cut of 7.61-percent from last year's funding levels.
The CR restores funding to the Conservation Stewardship Program - but reduces the cap on acreage enrolled in the program this year by 740-thousand acres. Following the reduction - the Natural Resources Conservation Service will enroll only 12-million acres in the program in fiscal year 2013. This was a priority for ASA within the larger discussion of budget constraints and farm programs.
An amendment introduced by Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma was included in the CR to postpone the enforcement date for the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures specifications until the end of the fiscal year. ASA strongly supported this postponement.
The ASA-supported Farmer Assurance Provision - language that states farmers may continue to plant seeds bearing traits that have been deregulated by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service without threat of disruption as a result of court decisions - was also included in the CR. ASA says the provision addresses the potential for protracted delays in commercializing new traits pending court-ordered environmental impact reviews. Finally - the provision only applies to biotech traits that have completed the required regulatory review process and does not restrict the right to challenge USDA’s determination that a trait does not pose a plant pest risk.
ASA also welcomed CR provisions that shift USDA funding to avert potential furloughs for the nation’s meat inspectors and the resulting shut-down of slaughterhouses and processing plants that would have negatively affected the livestock industry. More than 98-percent of the soybean meal produced in the U.S. goes to the livestock sector in the form of animal feed - and disruptions within that industry adversely impact soybean farmers as well.