Members of both Chambers of Congress have headed home for a four-week August recess, leaving behind a raft of priorities to be addressed when they return after Labor Day. 

First and foremost is the appropriations process. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30, after which new appropriations bills or a continuing resolution will be needed to fund federal programs. 

At this point, the House has passed a budget resolution — albeit one that is unacceptable to the Senate — and six of 12 appropriations bills, including the agriculture measure.

The Senate has yet to pass a budget resolution to initiate the appropriations process. 

The process going forward and the final product could heavily depend on the debt ceiling deal, which outlines cuts to FY2012 discretionary programs. The specifics of those cuts are as-of-yet unclear, as are the implications of the soon-to-come super committee negotiations.

Of equal importance to the wheat industry and other agricultural groups, Congress also did not act on three pending free trade agreements, with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, before leaving town. 

Though there is widespread support for finalizing the deals — which were inked up to four years ago — the Administration and some in Congress itself have tussled over whether or not trade adjustment assistance (TAA), which provides aid for workers affected by new trade deals, should be passed along with the agreements.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have agreed on a path forward for both TAA and the agreements after the August recess.