Following the inability of the U.S. Senate and U.S House to agree on Fiscal Year 2014 spending yesterday, the public must now endure a federal government shutdown. The failure to pass a Continuing Resolution (spending at past fiscal year levels) forces a shutdown which cripples the delivery of programs and services that millions of Americans use daily, while threatening the economic stability of our nation. It is inexcusable that House leadership has used this process to hold hostage unrelated budgetary matters in an attempt to impose changes onto the Affordable Care Act.
It’s ironic that today marks the unveiling of the Affordable Care Act in states across the nation. These exchanges will allow people to compare health insurance plans more easily and will significantly improve access to affordable insurance through tax credits and expanded public health care programs. The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) and our allies have worked to make Minnesota’s exchange —“MNsure” — operate well for the people of the state. MNsure is expected to have, on average, some of the lowest premiums in the country as well as expanded and improved versions of public health insurance programs for lower -income Minnesotans.
While mostly absent from the headlines, Oct. 1 also marks the expiration of the current Farm Bill. Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed a half-measure Farm Bill extension during “fiscal cliff” negotiations. It was generally assumed that Congress would pass a full five-year Farm Bill prior to Oct. 1, a feat that has been stymied by the House Republican leadership, which to date has failed to create a Farm Bill conference committee.
With today’s expiration of a Farm Bill and no alternative in place, programs like the Conservation Reserve Program are put on hold, as are a host of beginning farmer and rural development programs which continue to be unfunded and non-operational. The shutdown rubs salt in the wound as thousands of farmers seeking Farm Service Agency ownership and operating loans are left in the lurch waiting for funds as well as government agency staff support.
We hope cooler heads prevail, get our public systems in order and quickly pass a Farm Bill. This Congress has failed farmers, ranchers and consumers for far too long. It’s time to get a Farm Bill finalized that reduces unaccountable and wasteful spending in programs such as crop insurance and instead invests in conservation and the areas of agriculture that provide the most potential for positive growth, such as beginning farmer support and rural development.
Adam Warthesen is an LSP organizer who works on federal policy. He can be reached at 651-890-9250 or email@example.com.