soybean field

USSEC Urges USDA to Develop a Farm Bill Contingency Plan

USSEC is urging the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's (USDA) to begin crafting contingency plans to maintain their foreign market development programs in the event Congress fails to agree on a Farm Bill this year.  While both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have passed legislation that would authorize agricultural programs for five years, the two versions are drastically different.  Last year, Congress failed to pass a Farm Bill or extension before Fiscal Year 2013 (FY2013) began leaving USDA Cooperator groups scrambling to "keep the lights on" in foreign offices during the legislative uncertainty.  An extension of the previous farm bill was eventually passed earlier this year, but the foreign market development programs were among those left in limbo for several months. USDA responded with a short term "fix" to allocate unspent FY 2012 funds to be used in FY 2013.  USSEC and other U.S. agricultural export groups remain hopefully that Congress will come to agreement on a new Farm Bill before FY 2014 begins on Oct. 1 in order to avoid the closer of foreign offices and staff furloughs.  USSEC Chairman Randy Mann said, "This lack of predictability for export program funding is negatively impacting our ability to plan and implement programs that promote food safety, food security and trade capacity building with our trading partners."  He continued, "We have asked Secretary Vilsack to be ready to respond with a short-term fix again if a Farm Bill remains out of reach before October 1."