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The End of the Government Shutdown and the Beginning of Farm Bill Negotiations

A bipartisan agreement negotiated in the Senate and passed by both the Senate and the House extends our current budget to Jan. 15 and raises our debt ceiling limit to last until Feb. 7. The continuing resolution does not delay implementation of or defund the Affordable Care Act. Despite the short time frames, this gives Congress time to work out a more long-term solution on the budget and on deficit reduction.

This is extremely welcome news to the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who were furloughed during the government shutdown and to the families and individuals in Washington state who were at risk of losing food stamp, WIC, and other nutrition assistance benefits should the shutdown have continued into November.

The shutdown was not without its costs: economists estimate that the nearly three-week shutdown has cost our country $24 billion. Additionally, individuals who lost benefits or pay during the shutdown will have to recover some sense of stability after having faced financial crises over the last couple of weeks.

The end of the shutdown also means the return to regular business for Congress. On our radar is the start of negotiations on a five-year Farm Bill. Members of the Senate and of the House have been appointed to negotiate a Farm Bill that can be passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) will be a focal point during negotiations as the program is threatened with a cut that may be anywhere between $4.1 billion to $40 billion. Another focus is whether SNAP and other nutrition programs (including commodities programs for emergency food providers) should be reviewed every five years alongside crop subsidies and other agriculture programs or if they should be reviewed on a shorter cycle of every three years.

The state of Washington will have a role in the Farm Bill negotiations. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene of the 1st Congressional District has been appointed to the conference committee. She joins other SNAP advocates, Rep. Marcia Fudge and Rep. Jim McGovern, who will be facing a tough fight from some of the proponents of the deepest cuts to SNAP in the House Farm Bill.

As a voice for Washington’s hungry families and individuals, we maintain that SNAP is our first line of defense against hunger and that this program should be protected and strengthened in the Farm Bill.

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