As the federal government closes out its fiscal year, most observers would agree that the budget process has turned into a real mess.

Earlier this week, the House and Senate narrowly reached an agreement on a continuing resolution that extended the spending authority for federal agencies until Nov. 18, thus avoiding the threat of another government shutdown.

In essence, congressional leaders simply punted the problem about six weeks down the road to a time when they’ll have to find a way to avert another showdown between Republican deficit hawks and Democrat pro-government hardliners.

How did the Congress get in this mess and what might happen in the weeks ahead? The National Sorghum Producers has compiled a recap of the deficit reduction battles of recent weeks under the heading, “Federal Deficit Reduction & Your Farm – Part 1: Committees, Gangs and Groups,” in the Sept. 29 issue of its weekly Sorghum Notes:

“Super committee, a gang of six, a group here, a plan there. You’ve heard about the numerous budget scenarios for the last several months on the evening news, but what do they mean when it comes to sorghum and farm policy? Over the next few weeks, NSP explains what has been proposed and what is currently on the table when it comes to cuts to agriculture.

“In the first of this two-part series, we will chronologically revisit the proposed deficit reduction plans that have outlined major cuts to agriculture.

“December 2010– After 10 months of work, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, or the Simpson-Bowles group, proposed $15 billion in cuts to agriculture over 10 years.

“April 2011– House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan, the Path to Prosperity, proposed almost $30 billion in cuts to agriculture over the next 10 years with direct payments and crop insurance in the plan’s cross hairs.

“June 2011– The Biden Group, a group of six lawmakers chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, was charged with finding $2.5 trillion in budget cuts. The Biden Group proposed $34 billion in cuts to agriculture but negotiations broke down at the last minute.

“July 2011– The bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ proposed a solution to U.S. debt ceiling crisis that would cut $11 billion to agriculture over the next 10 years, but Senator Tom Coburn resigned from the group, ending its chances of bipartisan success.