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Shutdown could affect federal farm aid payments

December 29, 2018

The prolonged shutdown of the federal government could block the second round of farm aid payments approved by President Donald Trump last week.

This summer the USDA earmarked $9.5 billion through its Market Facilitation Program (MFP) for direct payments to farmers growing soybeans, corn, wheat, sorghum and other commodities, which were impacted by tariffs as a result of the president’s trade-spat with China and other countries. The first round of those payments already went out in September, however, last week Trump authorized Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to initiate a second round of payments as markets continue to suffer. The deadline for growers to sign up is Jan. 15.

But by the week’s end, the government shutdown during a dispute between Trump and Congress over $5 billion in border wall funding, has created uncertainty about whether or not those payments would continue.

While most Farm Service Agency county offices were open this week, allowing growers to continue signing up for the aid before the deadline, in a press release, the USDA assured producers who had already certified production that the checks would still go out during the first week of the government shutdown until available funding expired.

As Congress returned to work Thursday after the Christmas holiday, House GOP leaders had no further votes scheduled for the week, making it unlikely that the government would reopen until after Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House.

In the meantime, farmers who haven’t yet certified production, as well as those seeking farm loans and disaster payments, will be put on hold until after the government reopens.

Beyond the FSA, several other USDA agencies, including meat, poultry and grain inspectors along with import and export inspectors, have continued to work without pay. Other offices, such as the National Agriculture Statistics Service, have shuttered their doors, furloughed employees and delayed releasing scheduled reports until funding is re-established.

Households who receive monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (also known as food stamps) will still receive benefits for January. Most other domestic nutrition assistance programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, WIC and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, will continue to operate at the state and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available. Additional federal funds and commodities will not be provided during the shutdown.

Child Nutrition programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations into February.

However, payout of farm loans, disaster payments and other forms of farm aid will likely cease until after the government reopens.

spike.jordan@starherald.com

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