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Lawmakers looking to avoid another government shutdown

As the United States Congress returns to session this week, “lawmakers will, once again, have less than 10 working days to avert a shutdown in some of the federal government’s agencies, including the Agriculture Department,” Politico’s Garrett Downs reports.

“That’s due to the last stopgap resolution’s ‘laddered’ approach, which created two separate deadlines for two groups of federal agencies, the first of which includes USDA and will expire on Jan. 19,” Downs wrote. “The second tranche will expire on Feb. 2.”

The first deadline — on Jan. 19 — includes Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration; Energy and Water Development; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, according to Forbes Senior Contributor Simon Moore. The second deadline — on Feb. 2 — includes Defense; Commerce, Justice and Science; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Interior, Environment and Related Agencies; Labor, Health and Human Services and Education; The Legislative Branch; and State and Foreign Operations.

Things are looking somewhat more optimistic this time around, however, as late on Sunday afternoon, “Congressional leaders have reached a topline spending deal to fund the federal government for the rest of 2024,” according to reporting from the Hill’s Emily Brooks.

“While the deal paves the way for a potential funding decision, and signals that both (House Speaker Mike) Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are working in unison, a shutdown isn’t out of the question,” CNBC’s Samantha Subin and Christina Wilkie report.

The spending deal, according to Brooks, includes $1.590 trillion for Fiscal Year 2024 — broken into $886 billion for defense and $704 billion for non-defense. Still, to avoid a partial shutdown, the House and Senate have to work out differences in how they have so far crafted fiscal bills, including appropriations bills.

“The House and Senate have both passed some appropriations bills, but they are a long way from being reconciled,” according Forbes’ Simon Moore. “Specifically, the House has passed seven appropriations bills and the Senate three.”

One of the bills passed by the Senate last year — but not by the House — was an appropriations bill for both the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The House version of the bill last year failed largely because “more than two dozen moderate Republicans came out against a provision that would limit access to an abortion pill,” the Hill’s Mychael Schnell and Aris Folley reported at the time.

In addition, Downs reported, some Republicans voted against the bill because it contained cuts to agriculture programs.

“At the end of last year, Republican lawmakers in the House were not optimistic the Ag-FDA bill could ever be redeemed in the House, even after the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus walked back their steepest demands for undercutting the debt accord,” he wrote.

If a shutdown does occur, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would likely be affected, according to reporting from NPR’s Rachel Treisman. Other USDA programs, like marketing loans, could also be affected by a shutdown.

Ryan Hanrahan is the farm policy news editor and social media director for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked in local news, primarily as an agriculture journalist in the American West. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri (B.S. Science & Agricultural Journalism).

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