Tag Archives: Partial Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown—soon to enter its fifth week—is causing harm and exacerbating issues already facing American family farmers and ranchers as they look to sell their crops, acquire financing and prepare for the coming year. As such, the National Farmers Union (NFU) Board of Directors today adopted a resolution calling for an immediate reopening of the federal government.

“Our nation’s family farmers and ranchers are facing a financial crisis,” said the NFU Board. “Net farm income declined nearly 50 percent since 2013, and a majority of farms—farms of all sizes—have been operating in the red over the past several years. President Donald Trump initiated and escalated trade wars with China and much of the rest of the world, further depressing commodity prices and damaging America’s reputation as a reliable trading partner. The government shutdown is making these matters worse.”

The NFU Board highlighted a host of issues facing Farmers Union members because of the shuttering of federal agency doors, particularly those in their communities.

“The Market Facilitation Program (MFP), designed to aid farmers through the administration’s trade wars, is frozen due to FSA office closures,” said the NFU Board. “This stems needed cash flow for farmers gearing up for the coming year. These closures also limit farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to access federally backed operating loans and microloans, and process payments that are tied to FSA loans.”

“Additionally, information, data, and reporting services provided by USDA have been discontinued, making it more difficult for producers to make informed planting and selling decisions,” it continued. “Important agricultural research efforts are being delayed or halted, and some have been lost.”

The NFU Board noted that the shutdown is also significantly delaying implementation of both the 2018 Farm Bill and summertime sales of E15.

“Farm bill programs and updates, signed into law just a day before the shutdown, are very important to family farmers and ranchers of all sizes and operation types,” said the NFU Board. “The E15 waiver is desperately needed this summer to cut into significant oversupply of corn. Its implementation will have important gains for the entire farm economy.”

“American family farmers and ranchers rely on these operations to support their livelihoods and ensure food security for the country. It is imperative that the President and Congress fund the federal government immediately,” it concluded.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18, in addition to Tuesday, January 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 21.

In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.

“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said.  “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans.  Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”

Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:

  • Processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018.
  • Continuing expiring financing statements.
  • Opening mail to identify priority items.

                                                                                          

Additionally, as an intermittent incidental duty, staff may release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by producers.

Information on the locations of FSA offices to be open during this three-day window will be posted:

While staff are available in person during this three-day window, most available services can be handled over the phone. Producers can begin contacting staff on January 17 here.

Additionally, farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.

Other FSA Programs and Services

Reopened FSA offices will only be able to provide the specifically identified services while open during this limited time. Services that will not be available include, but are not limited to:

  • New direct or facility loans.
  • New Farm loan guarantees.
  • New marketing assistance loans.
  • New applications for Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
  • Certification of 2018 production for MFP payments.
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program.
  • Disaster assistance programs, such as:
    • Livestock Indemnity Program.
    • Emergency Conservation Program.
    • Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.
    • Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
    • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish.

While January 15, 2019 had been the original deadline for producers to apply for MFP, farmers have been unable to apply since December 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding.  Secretary Perdue has extended the MFP application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends. These announced days of limited staff availability during the shutdown will not constitute days open in calculating the extension. Producers who already applied for MFP and certified their 2018 production by December 28, 2018 should have already received their payments.

More information on MFP is available at www.farmers.gov/manage/mfp.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency is working with the Office of Management and Budget to find ways to reduce the impact of the government shutdown on farmers and ranchers.

Farm Service Agency offices across the country are closed and it’s causing several challenges for producers. “We’re working with OMB to see if we can find some relief in that area,” Perdue says on Fox Business. “We’re hoping to work up some strategies very soon to get these offices back open soon.” In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration is planning to expand its daily food safety work amid the continuing lapse in funding. High-risk food safety inspections could start up again as soon as Tuesday.

Also, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service remains on the job. Perdue also tells Fox Business that the agency’s food safety work hasn’t been disrupted at all. “We’re not short cutting any type of food safety issues there at USDA in our meat processing,” he says. States are also hustling to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program February benefits out to recipients starting this week, which Politico says is a big logistical and communications undertaking.

USDA Farm Service Agency county offices will not be operating after December 28, 2018, due to the lapse in appropriation. More information on USDA-wide resources and services can be found here.

Market Facilitation Program

Market Facilitation Program payments for producers that have already certified production with the Farm Service Agency will continue beyond January 1, 2019. Signup for the Market Facilitation Program ends on January 15, 2019. Secretary Perdue will determine if the deadline should be extended. You do not need to be finished with harvest to sign up. Farmers have until May 1, 2019, to certify production.

FSA Loan Guidance

Due to the lapse in federal government funding for all commodity loan activity has ceased as of January 3, 2019. This includes any loan activity conducted by DMA’s, LSA’s, and CMA’s. Access to the following automated FSA systems will no longer be available: Commodity Loan Processing System (CLPS), Cotton On-Line Processing System (COPS), Automated Cotton Reporting System (ACRS), and Centralized Cotton Redemption (CCR).

Commodities Pledged as Collateral for a Commodity Loan

Farm-stored commodities pledged as Commodity Credit Corporation collateral can be marketed (moved for purchase to a buyer) or fed, however, the following activities will not be processed while the government is shutdown:

  • Loan repayments
  • Loan disbursements
  • Refunds
  • Termination of transfers

During the shutdown, movement of collateral will be treated the same as loan collateral moved on a non-workday (same as a weekend or federal holiday). Producers with farm-stored loans may move loan collateral to non-designated structures during this period without prior written approval, provided the producer requests a CCC-681-1 Marketing Authorization on the next business day either by phone or in person.

FSA Farm Loan (Direct and Guaranteed) and FSA Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSFL)

Producers interested in FSA loan assistance may obtain more information for the following loan activity. The following sites provide the necessary forms to submit to apply along with information regarding the loan programs:

Please note these websites will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved.

Loan applications will not be processed or considered until the lapse in federal funding has been resolved. 

Acceptance of FSA Farm Loan and FSA Farm Storage and Facility Loan Payments:

If borrowers wish to remit payments, checks and money orders can be sent by mail to the local FSA office. Payments will be credited after the lapse in federal funding has been resolved. The postmark on the envelope will be used as the received date of the payment. FSFL and Direct Loans will not be deemed delinquent if a borrower is unable to make a payment due to offices being closed because of a lapse in federal funding.

Release of Normal Income Security:

Customers requesting the release of proceeds from the sale of crops, livestock or other security are advised to contact the office after the lapse in federal funding has been resolved. You can find your local office by visiting https://www.farmers.gov/service-locator.