WASHINGTON - Farm Service Agency offices nationwide will reopen Jan. 24 despite the ongoing government shutdown. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will recall all staff to handle more matters than were available during a previous brief re-opening.
FSA offices had been closed since Dec. 28 due to the government shutdown, leading to difficulties for farmers and ranchers who rely on FSA programs. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue reopened about half of the offices on Jan. 17, 18 and 22 to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans, to ensure the agency provides tax documents to borrowers and to release proceeds from the sale of loan security. Once all offices reopen, staff will be able to work on direct and guaranteed loans, Market Facilitation Program matters, existing Conservation Reserve Program contracts and more.
“The FSA provides vital support for farmers and ranchers and they count on those services being available. We want to offer as much assistance as possible until the partial government shutdown is resolved,” Perdue said in a statement.
FSA offices will open Jan. 24 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For the first two full weeks to follow, Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 to Feb. 8, FSA offices will be open Monday through Friday. If the government shutdown continues beyond that point, FSA offices will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
FSA employees, along with other federal employees, will receive back pay once the shutdown ends.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement that he spoke with Perdue on Jan. 22 about the reopening.
“We appreciate Secretary Perdue’s commitment to our nation’s farmers and ranchers and his efforts to ensure they have access to essential services, like FSA loans and the Market Facilitation Program,” said Hoeven, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee.
“Our agricultural community will now have more stability and peace of mind, even during this partial shutdown, and I commend the administration for making them a priority,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
Perdue also announced that the new deadline for the Market Facilitation Program, which provides payments for farmers to make up for market harm caused by the trade war, has been extended to Feb. 14. The original deadline had been Jan. 15. Other program deadlines may be modified and will be announced as they are addressed.
FSA offices will be able to handle the following matters beginning Jan. 24:
- Market Facilitation Program.
- Marketing Assistance Loans.
- Release of collateral warehouse receipts.
- Direct and Guaranteed farm operating loans and emergency loans.
- Existing Conservation Reserve Program contracts.
- Sugar Price Support loans.
- Dairy Margin Protection Program.
- Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage.
- Livestock Forage Disaster.
- Emergency Assistance Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program.
- Livestock Indemnity Program.
- Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
- Tree Assistance Program.
- Remaining Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program payments for applications already processed.
Programs that FSA staff will not be able to work on include new CRP contracts, new direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans, the Farm Storage Facility loan program, new or in-process Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program applications, Emergency Conservation Program, Emergency Forest Rehabilitation Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program and Grassroots Source Water Protection Program.