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NORMAN — If you had not heard, the United States federal government is shut down. Many divisions and departments within the government, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are left with skeleton crews or no employees at all, leaving farmers and ranchers with many questions.
Larry Sanders, Oklahoma State University agricultural economics professor, offered some answers to those questions.
“Services such as commodity price support programs, commodity loans, farm loans, disaster assistance and conservation programs are suspended or greatly curtailed,” he said. “And farm program participants expecting FSA checks in October will have to wait, possibly forestalling some farm operating loan repayments to local banks.”
Rural Development suspended action on all new loans and grants, except for emergencies and to protect government interest.
Rental Assistance funds that have been previously obligated will continue, but no RA contracts will be renewed or issued.
Farmers should not hold their breath waiting for statistical reports and access to data, including crop and livestock reports. Looking things up online is not an option either, said Heath Herje with Oklahoma State University Extension in Norman.
“Online access to the USDA website has been suspended,” Herje said.
While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and school lunch and breakfast programs will continue, the Women, Infants and Children program will operate with limited funding and will likely be suspended if the shutdown continues into late October.
Related to, but independent of the budget crisis and shutdown, the 2008 Farm Bill extension was neither renewed nor replaced with new legislation in September.
“While there have been several times that a farm bill expired for a brief period, it is unusual to have both an expired farm bill and a budget impasse occurring at the same time,” Sanders said. “Analysts suggest there will be only limited disruption until January in regular farm program activities.”
However, farm and agribusiness planning for next year will be difficult in light of uncertainty about program support, program requirements and no market reports, Herje said.