The federal government’s partial shutdown, which began at midnight on Dec. 21, has continued into the new year. While five of the appropriations bills have been enacted, Congress was unable to put together a package funding the remainder of the government that the president would agree to sign. The agriculture appropriations bill, which funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is among the appropriations bills still outstanding.
In general, when federal agencies are not provided funding by Congress, they are only allowed to partake in certain excepted activities. These types of activities are generally those that are necessary for homeland and national security, to protect health and safety, that can be financed from available funds or those that are necessary to complete an orderly shutdown. Many agencies will place large numbers of their staff on furlough, and travel for work is also restricted.
Each agency develops its own shutdown plan, and IDFA has summarized the plans most pertinent for dairy company members.
Food and Drug Administration
The Department of Health and Human Services government shutdown plan states that FDA will continue the following activities related to user fee funded programs and select vital activities, including maintaining critical consumer protection to handle emergencies, high-risk recalls, civil and criminal investigations, import entry review and other critical public health issues.
However, FDA is now unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition and cosmetics activities. FDA said it will cease safety activities such as routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula) and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
According to USDA’s lapse in funding plans, some agencies will be continuing limited activities. Certain Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) programs that have funding through user fees, assessments or reimbursements such as the Dairy Grading, Milk Marketing Administration and Research and Promotion programs will continue to operate. However, AMS will not be operating the National Organic Program and Standardization, Transportation & Market Development programs. Marketing Agreements and Orders programs will be operating during the shutdown.
AMS yesterday shared information about its Commodity Procurement Program, assuring suppliers and contractors that this shutdown should have minimal impact on most activities such as contract performance and invoicing or payments.
Dairy Forward Pricing Program
This program lapsed when the previous farm bill expired on Sept. 30. In order for the program to restart, AMS must issue a Federal Register notice which is going through the USDA clearance process now. However, the partial government shutdown will likely affect the ability of the department to review and approve the notice so the restart date for this program could be delayed.
Class I Mover Change
The department’s target date for implementing the new Class I mover is May 1, 2019. The documents necessary to implement this change are also going through the USDA clearance process so AMS should be able to meet the May 1 deadline. With the shutdown, it’s possible that the start date for the mover change could be pushed back because the department’s review and clearance process will slow down.
Environmental Protection Agency
In the instance of a government shutdown, approximately 5.4 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) staff will be authorized to work according to the agency contingency plan. This limited staff will be authorized to conduct activities that provide for homeland and national security and respond to emergencies involving safety of human life or protection of property, where the threat of human life or property is imminent. For example, EPA will conduct some superfund response work when there is an imminent threat to public health, conduct some laboratory services at EPA run labs, maintain emergency response responsibilities in the event of an accident.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
In the Department of Labor’s contingency plan, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will only have approximately 25 percent of its staff authorized to work during the shutdown. OSHA employees authorized to work will be allowed to carry out the following emergency enforcement activities: inspection of imminent danger situations; investigate workplace fatalities and catastrophes; investigate safety and health complaints from police and fire departments when those reports show employees are potentially exposed to hazardous conditions that present a high risk of death or serious injury; conduct follow-up inspections of establishments with high gravity serious violations and no abatement; and work on open cases where the agency six month statutory deadline will expire during the shutdown period. OSHA will not be conducting routine inspections, providing on-site consultation services or other programmatic activities during the shutdown.
Members with questions may contact Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory affairs, at email@example.com.