WASHINGTON - Farm Service Agency offices across the nation will open up for three days to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans, to ensure the agency provides tax documents to borrowers and release proceeds from the sale of loan security.
Select FSA offices will be open Jan. 17, Jan. 18 and Jan. 22, during normal business hours, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on Wednesday, Jan. 16. About 2,500 U.S. Department of Agriculture employees have been recalled to perform certain services. A list of offices that will be open can be found at https://www.farmers.gov/sites/default/files/documents/OpenFSAServiceCenters.pdf. The list accounts for about half of FSA locations. Since not all offices will be open, producers can visit nearby, open service centers if the office with which they typically do business is not on the list. Producers can call rather than visit if their business can be handled over the phone.
Recalled staff will be able to help with existing farm loans, ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline, process payments made on or before Dec. 31, 2018, continue expiring financing statements, open mail to identify priority items and sign checks jointly payable to FSA.
“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said in a statement. “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans. Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”
FSA offices nationwide have been closed since Dec. 28, 2018, due to the government shutdown, now the longest shutdown in U.S. history. That has been a complication for farmers who get loans through the agency, as they have been unable to get vital information and get checks released.
Even though the offices will open temporarily, staff will not be able to work on new direct or facility loans, new farm loan guarantees, new marketing assistance loans, new applications for the Market Facilitation Program, new certification of 2018 production for Market Facilitation Program payments, Dairy Margin Protection Program or disaster assistance programs.
While the deadline for producers to apply for the Market Facilitation Program had been Jan. 15, Perdue has extended the deadline in light of the shutdown. Once the government reopens, the deadline will be extended for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., last week urged Perdue to take action so that farmers would not be negatively impacted by the shutdown.
“I appreciate USDA efforts to bring back FSA staff to assist farmers and ranchers on Thursday and Friday this week and Tuesday next week,” Hoeven said. “At the same time, we continue encouraging the Administration to mitigate additional impacts, including providing additional service for Marketing Assistance Loans and Guaranteed loans.”
“I thank Secretary Perdue for doing all he can to minimize the impact of the government shutdown,” North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “This will give producers the ability to close out lingering items from last year and move forward with this year’s preparations.”
National Farmers Union released an informational statement to members, telling them about the services available.
“We’re urging those of you who have business with FSA to take advantage of this temporary reopening before FSA county offices are once again forced to close their doors,” the statement said.