In spite of the federal government shutdown and Congressional gridlock, NCBA continues to push for resolution on a five-year Farm Bill and other key issues in Washington, D.C. On this week’s Beltway Beef audio report, Kristina Butts, NCBA’s Executive Director of Government Affairs, outlined some of those efforts.

Farm bill – not forgottenRecent natural disasters, Butts says, such as last year’s droughts, fires, floods and most recently early and destructive snow storms in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, have illustrated the need for disaster assistance provisions for farmers and ranchers. The 2008 Farm Bill, which was temporarily extended, included disaster assistance provisions but only for four years, so producers affected by these recent disasters are left with considerable uncertainty.

NCBA continues to push for passage of a five-year Farm Bill in spite of the current shutdown, Butts says. The House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their respective versions of a bill, which now need to be resolved in conference. Unlike the Senate bill, the House version removes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to be considered in a separate bill. Butts says the House reportedly will appoint their conferees this week, suggesting the process is moving forward.

The process toward this Farm Bill has been a bumpy road from the beginning she adds, but the end is in sight, with passage likely by the end of this year. Grass-roots support is critical, and she urges farmers and ranchers to contact their Congressional representatives and encourage them to pass a bill.

The shutdown, Butts says, is hampering some lobbying efforts due to short staffs in Congressional offices, but NCBA continues to pursue additional goals including immigration reform and border security. Congress continues to push the issue forward. Originally, the House intended to address border security in July, but moved the discussion to September. Now, with the shutdown and emphasis on budget issues, the timeline is uncertain. The House, she says, has committed to address the border security issue before moving on to a broader labor and immigration package.

NCBA also continues to have conversations with the House Judiciary Committee about guest-worker programs, Butts says, emphasizing consideration of businesses such as livestock production, with year-around needs for labor. The current H-2A visa program does not work for beef producers, she says.

One bit of good news during the shutdown, she says, is that federal inspectors continue to serve in beef packing plants, allowing cattle marketing to continue through the shutdown.

Listen to the Beltway Beef audio report.