U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Jan. 16 that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Jan. 17-18, in addition to Jan. 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 21.
In almost half of FSA locations, staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure that the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.
“Until Congress sends President [Donald] 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. “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.”
Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:
- Processing payments made on or before Dec. 31, 2018.
- Continuing expiring financing statements.
- Opening mail to identify priority items.
Additionally, as an intermittent incidental duty, staff may release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by producers.
While staff are available in person during this three-day window, most available services can be handled over the phone. Producers can begin contacting FSA staff on Jan. 17 here.
Additionally, farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture chief executive officer Dr. Barb Glenn welcomed the action. “The limited reopening of some of USDA’s Farm Service Agency offices is helpful to America’s farmers and ranchers. Notwithstanding, it is critical that a full reopening of the federal government comes soon. All hands on deck are required to successfully direct every governmental program American agriculture and communities depend on, including those recently enacted in the 2018 farm bill,” Glenn said in a statement.
Other FSA programs and services
Reopened FSA offices will only be able to provide the specifically identified services while open during this limited time. Services that will not be available include, but are not limited to:
- New direct or facility loans.
- New farm loan guarantees.
- New marketing assistance loans.
- New applications for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
- Certification of 2018 production for MFP payments.
- Dairy Margin Protection Program.
- Disaster assistance programs, such as:
- Livestock Indemnity Program.
- Emergency Conservation Program.
- Wildfires & Hurricanes Indemnity Program.
- Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
- Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees & Farm-Raised Fish.
While Jan. 15, 2019, was the original deadline for producers to apply for MFP, farmers have been unable to apply since Dec. 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding.
Perdue has announced that the MFP application deadline will be extended for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends. These announced days of limited staff availability during the shutdown will not constitute days open in calculating the extension. Producers who already applied for MFP and certified their 2018 production by Dec. 28, 2018, should have already received their payments.
More information on MFP is available at www.farmers.gov/manage/mfp.