U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today warned that key agriculture and conservation programs will “come to a screeching halt” on Oct. 1 if Congress fails to include a key provision in legislation to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Hyde-Smith and fellow Senate Agriculture Committee and Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee members delivered speeches Thursday to stress the need for Congress to replenish the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation and continue 2018 Farm Bill safety net programs before the end of the month.

“This is not a situation to be taken lightly.  In recent years, America’s farmers and ranchers have experienced unfair foreign tariffs, depressed prices, catastrophic flooding and other natural disasters, market disruptions, and now COVID-19,” Hyde-Smith said.

“With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, we must act to ensure important agriculture and conservation programs administered by the Department of Agriculture do not come to a screeching halt on October 1st,” she said.  “Failure to include such a provision would pose a serious risk to America’s farmers and ranchers in these already challenging times.  It would cause harmful delays in program funding and benefits, at a time when many producers across the country cannot afford to wait months to receive cover for their losses.”

Negotiations are underway on a continuing resolution that Congress must pass to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1.  A year ago, Hyde-Smith was also part of an effort to keep House Democrats from intentionally omitting USDA program provisions in a CR.

Mississippi farmers and ranchers are among the more than 1.7 million farmers and ranchers enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs, which the 2018 Farm Bill authorized to help the American agriculture sector weather financial and market disruptions.

The following is the text of Hyde-Smith’s floor speech:

Mr. President, as the former Commissioner of Agriculture in Mississippi, this is issue is so vital and so important.  In Mississippi, agriculture is the number one industry.  One in every four jobs is related to agriculture, so this is very vital to my state.

With the end of the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, we must act to ensure important agriculture and conservation programs administered by the Department of Agriculture do not come to a screeching halt on October 1st.

The 2018 Farm Bill, which was supported by 87 members of the Senate, authorized important safety-net programs to: 

  • Protect producers against sharp price and revenue declines;
  • Provide short-term loans and interim financing to help producers meet cash flow needs;
  • Assist dairy producers affected by low milk prices and high feed costs;
  • Compensate landowners for taking fragile land out of production and implementing conservation improvements to help the environment; and
  • Assist producers when natural disasters destroy feed for livestock, cause above-average livestock mortality, or damage commercial orchards and fruit trees.

Current law requires many of these program payments to be made annually after October 1st, which highlights the importance of this matter.

As Congress discusses measures to keep the government open and federal programs operating beyond the current fiscal year, it is essential for any continuing resolution include a provision allowing the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation to continue financing these programs. 

Failure to include such a provision would pose a serious risk to America’s farmers and ranchers in these already challenging times.  It would cause harmful delays in program funding and benefits, at a time when many producers across the country cannot afford to wait months to receive cover for their losses.

Mr. President, this issue is not just about supporting American agriculture, it is about Congress living up to its promises.  More than 1.7 million producers signed contracts for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs.  Millions of private landowners have signed conservation contracts to take their land out of production.  These are contracts, and the terms of those contracts must be met. 

I remind my colleagues that this is not a situation to be taken lightly.  In recent years, America’s farmers and ranchers have experienced unfair foreign tariffs, depressed prices, catastrophic flooding and other natural disasters, market disruptions, and now COVID-19.  I applaud my fellow Republican colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee for raising awareness on this issue.

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Release from Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.