Must-see TV

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Move over CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NCIS. The hottest drama in the fall line-up isn't being filmed in Hollywood, New York City or Las Vegas, but rather our nation's capital. The 2012 season of "Washington, D.C. 20500" kept us guessing with the presidential election followed by the cliffhanger finale complete with threats of plummeting off of the fiscal cliff and being annihilated by the taxmaggedon.

Congress and President Obama averted the catastrophe and saved the country, but not without leaving us on the edge of our seats to the very end.

The 2013 season hasn't disappointed either in terms of drama: debt ceiling, sequestration (across-the-board spending cuts), a near government shutdown and now the real-deal shutdown. It's not unusual for Congress to miss the Oct. 1 deadline for enacting its 12 appropriations or spending bills for the new fiscal year, but a stop-gap spending bill (called a continuing resolution) is passed to keep government functioning until the big package can be enacted.

But as of Oct. 3, another agreement on a continuing resolution remains elusive, and most of our federal government is closed for business.

We're far from the drama in Washington, D.C., but we're all affected in some way. The shutdown has interrupted a service we use or a person we know has been furloughed. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) homepage has been replaced with "Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available."

We can be thankful daily inspections of meat and poultry are ongoing or else a major reaction would be felt in the livestock sector. All grain and related commodity inspection and weighing program activities supported by user fees are operational, too. The Plant Protection and Quarantine program, Wildlife Services program and Veterinary Services program are functioning because these programs are funded through means other than annual appropriations from Congress. However, that's about it in terms of USDA's normal activities.

In the meantime, duty calls every day on the farm regardless if the doors of government are open. Cows still have to be checked, crops harvested, equipment fixed and, yes, bills paid.

Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea, as Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst suggests, "if we said that if they [Congress] did not pass bills on time, if they didn't finish a budget, if they didn't finish appropriations bills, that maybe they ought to face the same penalties that any small business might face when they do not get their work done."

That would most certainly be must-see TV.