What the Shutdown Means for MN Farmers

With the federal government currently entering the 26th day of a partial shutdown, it’s becoming clear what that means for small farms and rural residents around the country, and here in Minnesota. The USDA offers many programs for farmers large and small, some of which continue to operate, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and some which are currently closed, like the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The NRCS being open is a good thing, since farmers can still access programs like EQIP to apply for a high tunnel, or find an NRCS booth at a farm conference to ask questions. But the FSA is the most used department by small farmers at the USDA, for everything from commodity payments to operating and farm purchase loans. FSA also administers payments for CRP (Conservation Reserve Programs), and since the government shutdown began two days after the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, there wasn’t time for payments to get processed for some farmers (myself included). Farmers with questions about Noninsured Assistance Program (NAP) or Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) are out of luck until the shutdown is over.

The USDA is also one of the federal government’s top acronym producers, and there is a workshop scheduled for the 2019 Emerging Farmers Conference in St. Paul on January 26th, to walk through the alphabet soup with growers, but unless the shutdown is resolved, the FSA employees who were going to lead it are MIA.

One of the biggest casualties for rural residents, in Minnesota and beyond, is the shutdown of USDA’s Rural Development Program, which provides grants and affordable mortgages for residents of rural areas. The real estate website Zillow estimates that 40,000 mortgages nationwide may be affected by the lapse in funding. And many real estate transactions are contingent on other transactions so that if there is one Rural Development link in the chain, the whole thing falls apart. Thankfully FHA loans are still being funded, but those buyers working with the USDA are out of luck until funding resumes.

Obviously, there are other USDA programs that are critical to millions of people, like SNAP. But, here are some more links to articles about how the shuttering of FSA offices and other departments are affecting farmers:

How Does A Government Shutdown Effect The USDA? – via Agriculture.com

Farmers Already Hurt By Trump’s Trade War Prepare For More Pain From The Government Shutdown – via CNBC.com

Shutdown Hits American Farmers Already Hurt By China Trade War – via TheGuardian.com

Some Farmers Aren’t Receiving Government Support Checks Amid Shutdown – via TheWashingtonPost.com