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How the Government Shutdown Impacts Farmers

The National Farmers Union explains how the government shutdown will impact farmers, in this blog cross-posted from the NFU website.

How the Government Shutdown Impacts Farmers
Posted on | September 30, 2013 | By NFU Government Relations Staff

As many of you are aware, the federal government will likely shut down at midnight tonight, Sept. 30. In the event that it does, NFU staff has put together the following summary of how it may impact Farmers Union members, family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and consumers:

Overall
Unless Congress passes a Continuing Resolution (CR), the federal government will shut down at midnight on Sept. 30, 2013. Since 1976 there have been 17 government shutdowns, the longest lasting 21 days in 1995-1996.

In the likely event of a shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will furlough all employees except for 17 presidential appointees and employees considered “essential.”  According to USDA, “essential” employees are those that perform emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. However, local Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, or Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will not be considered essential, so farmers and ranchers will not be able to receive any loans for programs they have applied for.

Listed below is a summary of how the government shutdown will affect farmers and ranchers who depend on USDA programs and other government services. For more details on the impact of the government shutdown on USDA, visit the USDA’s guidance.

Farm Program Payments
Farm program payments for crops planted in 2013 would continue after the farm bill expires September 30. However, payments would not be able to be delivered under a government shutdown.

Food Safety 
Food safety inspectors are considered essential and would stay on at the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) would also continue inspections to the extent they’re paid by user fees.

Rural Development Programs
Rural development programs would be put on hold, and no additional loans/grants, including RD rural housing loans or guarantees, will be issued. Projects already financed that are under construction would also be delayed. These programs include the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Rural Community Development Initiative Grants, Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants (REDLG), among several others.

Conservation
Because National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff is not considered essential, enrollment in conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) would stop. In addition, there would be no future financial assistance or technical assistance available through NRCS staff. However, USDA would continue to honor existing contracts.

Foreign Agricultural Service
Funding for Foreign Agricultural Service’s Foreign Market Development Program and Market Access Program could be delayed.  Funding for international offices and staff will stop.

Food Aid
Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the federal school lunch program would continue. However, funding would stop for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children (WIC)—which provides grants to states for food aid, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income woman and children.

Forest Service
As already noted, Forest Service employees deemed essential, such as firefighters, would stay on. However, national parks across the nation would be closed. This includes the Smithsonian museums, National Zoo and civil war battlefields and the national monuments in Washington, D.C.

Other Services

Mail
 would continue to be delivered since the U.S. Postal Service is an independent agency.

Law enforcement officials and military personnel are considered essential and would continue to operate.

The Affordable Care Act is already funded so sign up for healthcare exchangeswill open on Tuesday, October 1 2013 for uninsured Americans.

Trash pickup and libraries would continue to function. You may still be able to get a passport because the Department of State has some funds available outside of congressional appropriations. However, this funding may run out.

Seniors will continue to receive Social Security benefits and seniors can still apply for them. Unemployment benefits would also continue.

Medicare will not be affected

Amtrak would continue to run.

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