NFU: Shutdown continues to wreak havoc on farmers
As the government shutdown drags into its 19th day, more and more federal agencies and the programs they oversee are crumbling without funding.
Farmers, who rely on a number of federal programs for information and financial and technical assistance, are among those most immediately and directly affected by the shutdown. Starting on December 22, the first day of the shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended activities including the publication of reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the Economic Research Service (ERS), agricultural research, the allocation of new grants and rural development loans, and investigations of anti-competitive activities.
Other rollbacks were slower to kick in; on December 31, county Farm Service Agency offices were closed. This will delay the review of applications for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), which is intended to assist farmers affected by ongoing trade disputes. However, on Tuesday,U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the application deadline for MFP will be delayed for as many days as FSA office closures last, giving farmers extra time to certify their production.
In addition to NASS and ERS data, the USDA will not issue a number of important reports on their scheduled publication date of January 11. These reports include the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), the Winter Wheat Seedings report, the Grain Stocks report, a citrus production report, and a 2018 crop production report.
Cumulatively, these reports inform spring planting, loan allocation, business planning, futures purchasing, and other economic decisions. All of the delayed reports are expected to be released sometime after the government reopens.
Another unanticipated side-effect of the shutdown may be the delayed implementation of year-round E15 gasoline. In April of last year, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would allow the use of E15 gasoline in summer months, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not implement the change quickly enough for it to be in effect last summer. Family farmers rely on ethanol to cope with oversupply and depressed prices, and they cannot afford to go another summer without E15 waivers.
Though there had been rumors that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would possibly lose funding in February, the USDA announced earlier this week that the program would continue in full operation through at least the end of February. Should the shutdown continue into March, it is unclear what would become of the program or its 38 million participants.