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The looming government shutdown will delay the Farm Bill, as well

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addresses reporters.
Screenshot courtesy of the White House
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addresses reporters.

News brief:

Congress is scrambling this week to avoid a shutdown of the federal government. If lawmakers can’t reach a deal, agriculture and food aid programs could see impacts, and passage of the Farm Bill would face likely delays. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a briefing this week that a shutdown would hurt virtually every county in the country – and especially harm poorer communities.

The Farm Bill is a five-year-long, massive spending law that dictates food policy, financial aid for farmers and ranchers and other agricultural programs. It expires Sept. 30 and requires a lot of policy writing, debate and red tape to pass into law. Vilsack said a government shutdown would push the Farm Bill passage to later this year, mostly because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wouldn't be available to help politicians make sure the bill is written correctly.

“[If] they call our office for technical assistance, the phone's not going to get answered because no one's there. Why aren't they there? Because we're in a shutdown,” he said. “That's why it's so ridiculous for us to even talk about this.”

Vilsack said the USDA would still perform some duties like meat inspections in a shutdown. But other services, like loan assistance, would stop. A shutdown could also pause supplemental food aid programs, particularly one that supports women, infants and young children known as WIC. Thousands of workers may also be furloughed, and public lands may have to close.

“This is what drives people crazy outside of Washington. When a deal is not a deal and when the work that you're supposed to do doesn't get done and doesn't get done on time,” Vilsack said.

The government will shut down Sunday if Congress can’t reach a deal to fund it. Some House Republicans want further spending cuts before reaching an agreement.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.

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