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USDA to continue operations without farm bill

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducts some of its activities with funding and legal authority provided under the farm bill.

With current law expiring and no new legislation, how will the organization continue some of these functions? An Under Secretary within the Department of Agriculture outlines the future of certain programs below.

Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service (FFAS) Bill Northey says the U.S. Department of Agriculture will operate during the interim period. He provides a short-term outlook for the organization’s actions in between farm bills.

“(It) looks like it may be a month, or more, before we have a farm bill,” Under Secretary Northey said. “We’re looking at all the impacts. Many of the activities we deliver through (the) NRCS and FSA, and crop insurance will continue. There’ll be a few, small activities that we’ll not be able to do the exact same way.”

Northey says carryover authority will allow the agency to resume most of its activities, in the absence of a farm bill. He says the organization will soon release a statement regarding upcoming adjustments/changes.

“The next farm bill will start whenever it starts, and may be retroactive, of course,” Northey said. “In the meantime, we’ll be without a farm bill. We have some carryover dollars, some carryover authorities (and) other kinds of things that allow us to do most of the activities we do as well. We’ll clarify some of those in the next week or so.”

Farm bill legislation is being held up due to differences in opinion. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX 11th District) says legislators are not just hung up over proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Where we sit right now it is across almost all of the titles, there are legitimate policy differences of opinion across them. It’s not just SNAP, it’s not just the farm bill, it’s not just conservation, it’s not title—it’s a variety of things that we have yet to come to grips with,” Conaway said. “It’s really frustrating because no one of them, who are actually all of them in combination, are worthy of us not getting this done. It’s just a matter of having the political will to make those hard choices.”

Congress is expected to pass a farm bill, following midterm elections.