What Does Government Shutdown Mean for USDA and Iowa Farmers?

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The government shutdown is impacting parts of the USDA and farmers say they have some concerns over what it could mean if the shutdown continues.

“The trade wars and the tariff wars and now this has kinda been piling on, and everyone I talked to over the holidays was just hoping 2019 would be a better and more optimistic year” said farmer Morey Hill.

Hill, a farmer just outside of Slater, says if the shutdown continues it could delay a major January report from the USDA.

“The January report has a lot to do with 2018's production in acres, and a lot of farmers and traders base a lot of what they're going to do in the coming year on what that report tells us” he said.

That includes how many acres they'll dedicate to each crop they grow. The Iowa Farm Bureau says without the USDA report farmers will either have to wait or make their decisions off of different information.

“I think that's where social media is a little bit of a benefit now, that other folks talking about that whether it's on Twitter, or Facebook, or other places, you can maybe glean some information from some private sources or other resources that may be out there to help them make those decisions without the USDA report” said Tim Johnson, the Farm Bureau’s Senior Research and Policy Analyst.

Additionally, the loan and financial aid department of the USDA is also shuttered for the time being. Farmers say those who haven't filed their paperwork for the president's tariff assistance program may see delayed payments. Hill says luckily, he won’t be impacted.

“I made sure I checked all the boxes before the end of the year and I assumed most of my neighbors are the same way. We've had time to get that paperwork submitted. Anecdotally I talked with my FSA person last Friday and she said it'd been very hectic at the office both electronically and people coming in trying to get that done” said Hill.

The state USDA was unable to comment on how the shutdown has impacted them internally.  A furlough exempt employee tells Channel 13 that employees who are furloughed are not allowed to use their government phones, email, or conduct business on behalf of the USDA; and those breaking the rule would be subjected to thousands of dollars in fines or up to two years in prison.

Areas of the USDA unimpacted by the shutdown include the conservation department, food inspection services, and food assistance programs.

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