As the United States government shutdown enters its second week, the shuttering of federal offices can be seen locally.
Just look at the U.S. Agriculture Department’s farm services offices. Now, farmers can’t apply for new loans, sign up acreages for government programs or receive government checks for programs they’re already enrolled in. And at a time when researchers who are seeking new wheat varieties and plant traits should be planting experimental plots, all work has ground to a halt.
In addition, farmers are having to do without agriculture reports. This is an issue because farmers today depend far more on global marketplaces than government payouts.
The reports, for instance, can alert them to shortfalls in overseas markets or if there’s a wide swing in acres planted, both of which would prompt U.S. growers to plant extra crops to meet those demands or hang on to a harvest longer to get a better price.
Furthermore, the shutdown came just as the current farm bill expired. Farm subsidies remain intact for fall crops currently being harvested. Crop insurance, funded under a permanent authorization, is mostly unaffected.
The expiration of the law won’t have an impact until the end of the year, when some dairy supports end and milk prices are expected to rise sharply.
Congress has been debating the new farm bill for more than two years, but a resolution has likely taken a back seat.
These are issues for our neighbors and impact an industry that has strong, vital ties to our region. While these producers wait for payments, information and a farm bill, our congressmen continue to receive their checks and don’t live under the fear of not having a livelihood.
No longer is it only about funding Obamacare or not funding it. It has become a game of seeing who will blink first. It is also making our legislative process a laughing stock among our global peers.
Perhaps, if our lawmakers actually had to work for a living, they might understand what their constituents are really going through.