Government Shut-down: Will the US Fall Apart?

GLOBAL - There is no end yet in sight to the budget deadlock in the US as President Obama and Congressional leaders have so far failed to reach agreement and some government services have closed down, which presents some new challenges to farmers.
calendar icon 7 October 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

The situation has led to a partial government shut-down, which includes the closing of the US Department of Agriculture web site and all its reports have ceased for the time being.

President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bob Stallman, said that farmers and ranchers - along with 90 per cent of the country - are frustrated with Congress for their apparent unwillingness to reach agreement.

On 1 October, he commented: "Aside from shutting down the government, the one-year farm bill extension Congress granted last session also expired at midnight, while the new farm bill has yet to formally reach the conference process."

National Farmers Union president, Roger Johnson wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives: "The 2008 Farm Bill has now been allowed to expire twice, most recently on Sept. 30, 2013. The fate of the farm bill is now in your hands."

In a later press release, Mr Johnson said: "The US Congress has put all Americans in a dire situation. The uncertainty created by the failure to come to an agreement on how to fund the government has overshadowed a situation that impacts the livelihood of so many family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and hungry people in this country."

Has the country fallen apart in the wake of all this uncertainty? Well no, of course not. Meat inspection in the US has continued as normal this week despite many government officials being laid off following the failure to reach agreement over the budget.

However, the government shut-down has led to employees being turned away from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB), which is the agency that oversees the release of animal vaccines. This means CVB will not release batches of vaccines for distribution. The agency has said that after 14 days, it will reevaluate.

In other news, future food demand will define the shape of the livestock, agriculture and farming sectors and their support industries.

While billions of Euros and dollars are being spent on research to improve crop, livestock and food production, the supply of food as populations grow in size and wealth will largely be determined by the climate and land availability.

A growing global population, emerging middle class and changing eating habits have seen a switch to a more meat-based diet. As meat consumption grows, farming methods are also likely to change from the extensive grazing production of red meat to more feed lots that will use more wheat and grains for feed, according to Gordon Rennick from the pesticide control division of the Irish Department of Agriculture.

Speaking at the British Crop Production Council congress last week, Mr Rennick said that this in turn will bring into question land availability and also the availability of water to irrigate the land and provide water for livestock.

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