The industry will not escape unscathed from mandated sequester cuts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said in mid-March it is suspending several reports for the balance of the fiscal year because of budget cuts caused by sequestration. Of those important to the industry, the USDA said it did not plan to issue the potato stocks report and those for all non-citrus fruit, nut and vegetable forecasts and estimates.
The list of suspended fruit crop estimates includes the closely watched first estimate of the 2013 apple crop, released in August.
What’s more, export promotion funds in the Market Access Program for U.S. fresh produce exports were cut by 10% by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
Of course, this says nothing of expected cutbacks in border service by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in coming weeks.
The by-now familiar sequestration cuts were put in motion during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, as a plan to motivate lawmakers to stop disagreements over the federal budget from being kicked down the road indefinitely.
It hasn’t worked, of course, but that is no reason to hold U.S. agriculture hostage to Washington’s dysfunction.
The industry may find these coming lapses in services a valuable accounting tool in measuring the value of services that government provides.
The increasing pain and cost of sequester cuts to the fresh produce industry — and other industries — should push lawmakers to act sooner rather than later to find a way forward without cutting essential services.
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