Roberts: Another shutdown would slow farm bill implementation
February 5, 2019
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that Congress must avoid another federal government shutdown, partly because it would slow down farm bill implementation.
"I hope there is not a shutdown," Roberts said at the beginning of his remarks to a Farm Foundation forum on farm bill implementation.
But later in the presentation, Roberts said, "We are not going to do another shutdown. I have been through 15 shutdowns. They have never achieved their purpose."
During the first week of a shutdown, Roberts said, "People say 'stay the course.'" During the second week, he continued, they ask "Are we on the right course?" In the third week, he added, they ask "How do I get off this course?"
This was a five-week shutdown and the government got "into shattered glass," he concluded, adding that "trade retaliation is in the same boat — you get into shattered glass."
The shutdown was "tough" for farmers who were making decisions and finding the Farm Service Agency county offices closed, Roberts said, adding that the farmers are now even more in the decision-making process about spring planting.
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Speaking of the slowdown in farm bill implementation due to the government shutdown, Roberts said, "They are working extremely hard down at the department so I think it will work out."
Roberts described the farm bill as evolutionary, not revolutionary, saying that the current period of uncertainty would not have been the right time for a revolutionary bill.
The bill made a number of improvements in farm programs, he said. There was "a lot of talk" about the nutrition title, Roberts said, adding that he believes the Senate version that was adopted could properly be called "reform" even though it was less dramatic than the House version.
"I think words have meaning," Roberts said. "If you use the proper words in what we did in the Senate you could put reform in there." ❖