federal budget

Congress avoids government shutdown, for fourth time

The House and Senate speedily passed a short-term government funding bill on Thursday, averting a partial government shutdown this weekend that would have included the USDA. “Now let us finish the job of funding the government so we don’t have to do this again,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Look outside the farm bill to strengthen the safety net, says Vilsack

Farm-state lawmakers could break their deadlock over how to pay for the farm bill by looking elsewhere for money rather than fighting over existing accounts, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. Vilsack, who has repeatedly urged lawmakers to be creative about funding, said it might be possible to tap a $30 billion USDA reserve to support producers in specific instances.

House conservatives oppose higher subsidies in new farm bill

Half a dozen House Republicans pushed back on Wednesday against a drive by farm groups for higher reference prices in the new farm bill, while analysts said that an expansion of federally subsidized crop insurance could cost nearly $600 million a year. Farm groups say that despite high farm income, a stronger safety net is needed because of increased production costs.

Six-week government funding bill is proposed

The Senate was scheduled to take a procedural vote on Tuesday afternoon to keep the government running until early March, a six-week extension of the stop-gap funding bill now in place. If Congress fails to act, funding for the USDA and four other federal departments would expire on Friday.

Ag committee Republicans vote against funding bill

Eleven of the 29 Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee voted against the government funding bill that includes a one-year extension of the 2018 farm law, House records show. The extension would give the Senate and House Agriculture committees more time to write the next farm bill.

WIC shortfall would squeeze Black and Hispanic families the most

Some 600,000 parents and young children would be denied WIC benefits under USDA funding bills pending in the House and Senate, said the think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Thursday. “The eligible people who would be put on waiting lists are disproportionately in Black and Hispanic families,” said a CBPP blog.

Stabenow: ‘Everything keeps getting in our way’

The looming government shutdown is an example of the roadblocks facing the new farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything keeps getting in our way,” she said. “It’s an unusual time.”

Reformers call for farm bill ‘guardrails’ on crop insurance

Congress should make the wealthiest farmers pay a larger share of the cost of taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance and hold the line on crop subsidies in the new farm bill, said a half dozen think tanks, budget hawks, and environmental groups on Wednesday. “There is no obvious or urgent need to increase farm subsidies,” said Nan Swift of the R Street Institute, despite the appeals of farm groups.

White House pushes Congress for help in meeting WIC needs

The Biden administration is taking a two-step approach to supplying enough money for the Women, Infants, and Children food program to meet larger-than-expected enrollment, said the White House on Wednesday.

House Republicans court defeat of farm bill with SNAP talk, say Democrats

The 2023 farm bill is headed for defeat if Republican leaders meddle with SNAP, said Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, pointing to floor votes that delayed enactment of the 2014 and 2018 bill. It was the second warning by the committee’s Democrats against additional cuts in food stamps following revisions in the debt limit deal in June.

WIC needs an additional $1 billion — or more — says think tank

Due to rising participation rates and food inflation, the Women, Infants, and Children program will need $7.2 billion to $7.3 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 — far above the amounts being considered by Congress, said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Wednesday.

GOP group: Convert SNAP to block grant, follow Trump to cut farm spending

SNAP “is in dire need of reform,” and the solution is to turn the program into a block grant that requires states to share the cost of benefits, said a group speaking for conservative House Republicans. The Republican Study Committee budget package also said lawmakers should follow former President Donald Trump’s lead to slash farm supports.

Legislative rider directs USDA to block farmland purchases by four nations

To foil foreign adversaries, the Agriculture Department should “take such steps as may be necessary” to prevent them from buying U.S. farmland, said the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, despite questions about whether the USDA has the authority to intrude on sales. “This is a very important step,” said Rep. Don Newhouse, sponsor of the legislative rider aimed at China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

Time is running out for the farm bill, warns McConnell

Senate Republicans will do their part to smooth the way, but time is already running out for Congress to write the new farm bill, said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday. The 2018 farm law expires in four months, and leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees have yet to unveil a first-round text for the farm bill, an unusually late start for a time-consuming process.

McCarthy: ‘Let’s get the rest of the work requirements’

An exultant House Speaker Kevin McCarthy twice suggested House Republicans would seek more stringent work requirements for the government’s safety net programs now that the House overwhelmingly approved a debt ceiling bill that also limits federal spending. “Think about how much further we can go,” McCarthy told reporters.

With cuts, USDA will ‘do more with less,’ say House Republicans

Split on party lines, a House subcommittee approved a USDA spending bill on Thursday that would rescind $6 billion earmarked for clean energy and farm loan forgiveness and end work on fair play rules in livestock marketing. The bill also would limit Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s access to a $30 billion reserve that is being used to pay for a climate-smart agriculture initiative.

Stricter limit on SNAP benefits faces vote in House committee

House Republicans proposed broader application of a 90-day limit on food stamps for able-bodied adults as part of the annual USDA-FDA funding bill on Wednesday. The proposal mirrors the GOP position in debt ceiling negotiations with President Biden.

House GOP grants reprieve to biofuel credits in debt bill

In the hours ahead of a roll call on their debt limit bill, House Republican leaders relented on a proposal to eliminate tax credits for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and second-generation biofuels. They proceeded with a repeal of the $1.25-a-gallon credit for sustainable aviation fuel that was created last summer as part of the climate, health, and tax bill.

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