WASHINGTON — Despite the ongoing lapse in federal funding, all the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 9,700 Farm Service Agency employees returned to work Jan. 24 to provide farmers and ranchers with critical services.
In a statement issued Jan. 22, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the temporary recall will allow F.S.A. offices to open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from Jan. 24 through Feb. 1, and the same hours Wednesday through Friday thereafter if needed. Mr. Perdue noted President Donald Trump already has signed legislation guaranteeing compensation for all federal workers’ missed paychecks during the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22, 2018.
Mr. Perdue also announced the one-month extension to Feb. 14 of the application deadline for the Market Facilitation Program designed to assist farmers hurt financially by trade issues, especially the ongoing dispute between the United States and China.
“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working to alleviate the effects of the lapse in federal funding as best we can, and we are happy to announce the reopening of F.S.A. offices for certain services,” Mr. Perdue said. “The F.S.A. provides vital support for farmers and ranchers, and they count on those services being available. We want to offer as much assistance as possible until the partial government shutdown is resolved.”
Mr. Perdue explained the U.S.D.A., in collaboration with the Office of Management and Budget, reviewed all funding accounts unaffected by the lapse in appropriation and zeroed in on programs where the suspension of activity associated with those accounts would significantly damage or prevent the execution of the terms of the underlying statutory provision. As a result of the review, the U.S.D.A. was able to exempt additional employees from the furlough. The accounts not affected by the lapse in appropriations include mandatory, multiyear and no-year discretionary funding, including fiscal year 2018 farm bill activities, the U.S.D.A. said.
The following services will be temporarily available:
- Market Facilitation Program.
- Marketing assistance loans.
- Release of collateral warehouse receipts.
- Direct and guaranteed farm operating loans, and emergency loans.
- Service existing Conservation Reserve Program contracts.
- Sugar price support loans.
- Dairy Margin Protection Program.
- Agricultural risk coverage and price loss coverage.
- Livestock forage disaster.
- Emergency Assistance Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program.
- Livestock Indemnity Program.
- Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
- Tree Assistance Program.
- Remaining Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program payments for applications already processed.
Transactions that will not be available include, but were not limited to:
- New Conservation Reserve Program contracts.
- New direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans.
- Farm Storage Facility Loan Program.
- New or in-process Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program applications.
- Emergency Conservation Program.
- Emergency Forest Rehabilitation Program.
- Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
- Grassroots Source Water Protection Program.
The U.S.D.A. announcement was applauded by farm organizations.
“The announcement that the Agriculture Department will reopen all F.S.A. offices for many vital services is welcome news,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “The reopening means F.S.A. will once again provide much-needed operating loans, crop insurance, crop disaster assistance and more.
“Planting time is here for many farmers and very near for most. So far, we’ve been promised two additional weeks of operation starting on Jan. 28, and three days a week thereafter for as long as those services are needed. This is a great start. We look forward to an end to the ongoing shutdown and hope the president and Congress, alike, can find a way to end their impasse soon as possible.”