Weekly Overview: Budget Frozen - Will the US Fall Apart?

GLOBAL - There is no end in sight to the budget deadlock in the US as President Obama and Congressional leaders have so far failed to reach agreement. Many people - US farmers included - are expressing frustration at the situation but the country has not collapsed. We also look at the top stories affecting the poultry industries in South Africa, the EU, Australia and Canada.
calendar icon 3 October 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

The US budget situation has led to a partial government shut-down, which includes the closing of the US Department of Agriculture web site and all its reports have ceased for the time being.

President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bob Stallman, said that farmers and ranchers - along with 90 per cent of the country - are frustrated with Congress for their apparent unwillingness to reach agreement.

On 1 October, he commented: "Aside from shutting down the government, the one-year farm bill extension Congress granted last session also expired at midnight, while the new farm bill has yet to formally reach the conference process."

National Farmers Union president, Roger Johnson wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives: "The 2008 Farm Bill has now been allowed to expire twice, most recently on Sept. 30, 2013. The fate of the farm bill is now in your hands."

In a later press release, Mr Johnson said: "The US Congress has put all Americans in a dire situation. The uncertainty created by the failure to come to an agreement on how to fund the government has overshadowed a situation that impacts the livelihood of so many family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and hungry people in this country."

Has the country fallen apart in the wake of all this uncertainty? Well no, of course not. Meat inspection in the US has continued as normal this week despite many government officials being laid off following the failure to reach agreement over the budget. And the National Chicken Council has elected new officers, including its 2013-2014 chairman, who will be Mike Helgeson, chief executive officer of GNP Company.

In other news, poultry producers in South Africa have won at least a partial victory, achieving significant customs duty increases on imported chicken. However, they say, the main battle - over alleged European Union (EU) dumping - still lies ahead.

The South African Poultry Association's CEO explained that Brazil still supplies most of the chicken imported into South Africa but that most of the product that "causes problems" in the local market stems from the EU.

The EU-28 broiler sector is expected to continue to grow in 2013 and 2014, benefiting from slowly growing domestic demand, according a recent GAIN report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Additionally, poultry is less affected than other meats by the economic recession.

In Australia, a consumer advocacy group has lodged a 'super complaint' to New South Wales Fair Trading about the labelling of free-range eggs, alleging that the public is being misled.

The majority of consumers in Canada want clearer animal welfare labels, according to an animal welfare group, which is calling on the country's regulatory agency to require clear, mandatory labels on all animal products.

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