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USDA officials update commodity groups about shutdown consequences

10/2/2013 at 12:00 a.m.

From the USA Rice Federation:

WASHINGTON — Millions of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dollars are not being distributed, and program contracts, obligations and services are going unfulfilled for producers and other participants because Congress failed to pass an interim Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 spending bill, prohibiting the outlay of funding to pay USDA employees' salaries, operate agency offices and administer programs. Most USDA employees were sent home Oct. 1 and will not return to work until an FY 2014 appropriations bill that includes USDA funding clears Congress and is signed by the president.
USDA officials also said departmental personnel, administrative and programmatic problems are being compounded by the Sept. 30 expiration of the 2008 farm act and the FY 2014 federal budget sequestration, an automatic percentage reduction in federal spending mandated by the 2011 budget act that took effect Oct. 1.
USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse, Farm Service Administrator Juan Garcia, Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller, and departmental counsel today enumerated the amount of programmatic and administrative funding that will not be spent in the new FY 2014, which began Oct. 1, until more federal spending is approved by Congress. Harden and her deputies said they know and are hearing frequently how much difficulty the government's virtual shutdown is causing farmers and others who participate in USDA programs.
Scuse said the Risk Management Agency's (RMA) update of the 2014 insurance handbook, underwriting of certain policies and claims, and case arbitration, are delayed because RMA staff cannot be in the office. FSA's Garcia explained how the closure of all FSA state and county offices is causing $4.5 billion in direct payments to go undistributed to 1.7 million farmers and preventing commodity marketing loans from being administered. FSA makes between 30,000 and 50,000 commodity loans a year, Garcia said. He said $52 million in farm operating loans cannot be closed for 500 producers, 1,800 loan obligations cannot be completed and $1.7 billion in Conservation Reserve Program payments cannot be issued.
Jason Weller, the NRCS chief, said that 56,000 Conservation Security Program and Conservation Stewardship Program contracts on 70 million program acres and $1 billion in program payments have been delayed and 100,000 Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts on 28 million acres, valued at $750 million, will not go out. Two thousand two hundred NRCS field offices are closed and 11,000 NRCS employees are furloughed. In addition, he said 8,000 local conservation personnel who share office space and equipment with NRCS officials cannot get to their offices or files because of the NRCS closures.
USA Rice will continue to monitor and report on the impact these disruptions are having on USDA programs, including those for commodity, conservation, crop insurance, and market development.
For more information, contact Reece Langley at 703-236-1471.

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