It’s probably safe to say that just about everyone is ready for the partial government shutdown to come to an end. Now in it’s 33rd day, it’s the longest US government shutdown in history. The NFU and several Ag lenders have had enough, and are calling on President Trump and Congress to bring this madness to an end. Farmers need to be able to plan for next season, and without several government agencies open- like the USDA and FSA- planning has been challenging. And in some cases impossible.
NFU Calls to End Shutdown Immediately
The National Farmers Union (NFU) issued an unusual press release last week. Their board is calling for an immediate end to the government shutdown- saying that it,
Is causing harm and exacerbating issues already facing American family farmers and ranchers as they look to sell their crops, acquire financing and prepare for the coming year. As such, the National Farmers Union (NFU) Board of Directors today adopted a resolution calling for an immediate reopening of the federal government.
They place responsibility partly in the hands of President Trump, for initiating and escalating trade tensions with China and the rest of the world. This has depressed commodity prices and damaged the US reputation as a good trading partner. On top of this, the partial government shutdown is not helping matters for US farmers and ranchers.
Farmers Facing Financial Crisis
They claim that America’s farmers and ranchers are facing a financial crisis. Net farm income has decreased 50% since 2013, and many farms have been operating in the red for the last several years.
Due to the partial government shutdown, many federal agencies offices that farmers need are closed. The Market Facilitation Program (MFP), was intended to help farmers get by as trade disputes are worked out, but that’s frozen because the FSA offices are closed. Farmers will not be able to get the cash flow needed to start next season. Farmers’ access is also limited to loans, microloans and process payments through FSA loans.
No USDA Data
In addition, USDA data and reporting is discontinued during the shutdown. This data is critical in helping farmers’ make informed planting and selling decisions for next season. Ag research and data is delayed, stopped or lost.
The shutdown has also delayed the implementation of the Farm Bill that was recently passed, as well as summertime sales of E15. The E15 waiver will be necessary to cut into the oversupply of corn, and could help out the farm economy.
Ending the government shutdown not only helps save farmers’ livelihoods, it is also necessary for food security for the entire country.
Ag Lenders Call to End Shutdown
A group of Ag lenders also urged politicians to put an end to the partial government shutdown. Agfax shared an article written by Jerry Hagstrom of DTN, called, “Ag Lenders to Politicians: Farmers Need Govt. Up and Running ASAP.”
The CEO’s of three farm credit banks as well as the Farm Credit Council called on Trump and Congress last Wednesday to reopen the government so farmers can get their financial affairs in order for next season. The group included Kathy Heustess, CEO of ArborOne Farm Credit in South Carolina; Mark Jensen, CEO of Farm Credit Services of America and Frontier Farm Credit of Kansas; and Marc Knisely, CEO of AgCountry Farm Credit Services in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. They made their argument only a day after the Kansas City Federal Reserve President Esther George said,
In the Plains, “The farm sector is in a prolonged downturn as a result of declining agricultural prices, made worse by retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm products.”
Even though some FSA offices were recently opened for three days, Farm Credit Council CEO Todd Van Hoose said that,
“This is the heavy renewal season for agricultural lending. It is important to get those FSA offices open permanently so we can get business done.”
Farming isn’t like a factory- we can’t just close the doors. The work is done outside, and the work must be done whether the government is closed or not.