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home : news : local   April 29, 2016

10/4/2013 5:07:00 AM
Farmers not slammed by U.S. government shutdown - yet

NewsTribune file photo/Scott Anderson
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NewsTribune file photo/Scott Anderson
Katlyn Rumbold
Princeton Bureau Chief

The Farm Service Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are among many of the federal government entities that have been closed until Congress either passes a continuing resolution or a budget to restore funding.

This week, the government shutdown had yet to affect the majority of local farmers due to the fact that harvest is well underway. And most farmers can’t think about anything else until the crop is in. However if the shutdown lasts more than one or two weeks, the USDA may be forced to delay the release of its monthly crop estimates, due Oct. 11. The USDA is unable to process applications for loans to farmers for operating expenses.

Traders and investors who closely watch the daily and weekly agricultural statistical reports now have no access to those, since the employees responsible for those reports have been furloughed. The reports on wholesale pork prices, chicken supplies, and egg supplies, could affect commodity and equity investors, who also rely on the information.

With that said, University of Illinois Extension Commercial Agriculture Educator Russ Higgins, along with fellow educators, have noticed a lack in harvest updates, which came at no surprise.

“One of the interesting things that we do is follow the harvest progress through the USDA Statistics Service. Ironically enough, that website is currently closed. The government shutdown is a very important issue, but a greater concern is the lack of a farm bill,” Higgins said. “We still haven’t been able to come to an agreement on that. It is hard to make long-term decisions when so much is up in the air.”

Illinois Farm Bureau Executive Director of Governmental Affairs and Commodities Mark Gebhards, who has been in meetings with members of the Congressional staff, does not foresee a solution until some time next week, but again it is hard to tell. There are so many factors that play into it, he said.

“Effects on the farmers will be fairly minimal if the government begins operating within two weeks, but it could have a negative impact in certain areas if it goes longer,” Gebhards explained. “Our major issue right now is the farm bill and the Water Resources Development Act are going to get backed up even further now. We hate to see those things get delayed longer.”

Also, pending how long these services remain in shutdown mode, CRP payments and DCP payments that would normally go out in October will not be paid until funding is restored. On the flipside, some departments have been deemed essential and will remain open such as those involving meat and poultry inspections as will regulatory enforcement and product testing in laboratories.

“In the livestock industry, quality standard packing plants are considered essential, and they’re still in place so there won’t be a hold in the processing of livestock,” Higgins said.

Other departments within the USDA that are deemed essential include agricultural marketing service, grain inspection packers and stockyards administration, and natural resource conservation service. The USDA anticipates that most states will have funding to keep the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program running (which La Salle County Health Department confirmed on Thursday) and food stamp aid for 47 million low-income Americans will be unaffected.

“Frustration continues to grow due to the fact that Congress has been so dysfunctional and can’t move forward with issues,” Gebhards added.

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013
Article comment by: Anonymous9615

Please refer to this link and you will see that the NRCS is closed.

Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013
Article comment by: MotherEarthSpeaks

Perhaps it is time to reconsider our dependencies on federal programs, large farms, taxpayer subsidies, and look to our neighbors for support and co-operation.

Small local farms that feed the locals healthy food, and have friends in the community, may be more valuable than dysfunctional statistics.

Just sayin...

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