Two big events happened in D.C. at midnight on September 30, Fiscal Year 2018 and the year’s federal appropriations ended, and the 2014 Farm Bill expired. Only one of those events has been addressed by Congress. Congress passed several funding packages (minibuses) that included most of the 12 appropriation bills that are needed to fund the federal government in FY 2019. But several of these bills, including Agriculture and Interior were given a temporary funding extension (Continuing Resolution) through December 7. The Interior Appropriations Bill funds EPA, Dept. of the Interior agencies, the Forest Service and numerous other agencies. Both the House and Senate versions of the Interior Bill contain $73 million for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, as well as language directing EPA to continue funding the NFWF-administered Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Grants at $12 million.
Two vastly different Farm Bills were passed by the House and Senate earlier this year, and the conferees from each body who have been trying to bridge their differences since August have not made a lot of progress. At this point it is very unlikely that Congress will resolve this impasse until after the mid-term elections on November 6. There are mechanisms that can be used by USDA and Congress to keep most Farm Bill programs viable through at least December 31 without a new Farm Bill or an extension. The strong possibility of the House flipping from Republican to Democratic control starting on January 3, 2019, also complicates the future of a new Farm Bill.
Peter Marx is a federal contractor at Choose Clean Water.