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How Does the USDA Shutdown Hurt?

At least one state secretary of agriculture is seeing the pain first hand.

Published on: Oct 8, 2013

No matter what side of the political fence you sit on, the ongoing government shutdown is starting to cause pain. To offer an up-close look at the kind of pain farmers are feeling - beyond the expiration of the farm bill - the Arkansas Agriculture Secretary issued a release and noted that closures for USDA agencies is hurting more than farmers.

In his release, Butch Calhoun notes: "Our office has received calls from farmers who have Farm Service Agency farm loans and cannot draw the funds they need to pay bills and other expenses associated with harvest because the FSA offices are closed."

He adds that technical and financial assistance from conservation programs has also stopped - that includes the Conservation Reserve Program and Environmental Quality Incentive Program funds. Says Calhoun: "This lack of funding creates a hard ship on many local businesses expecting to get paid this month."

SMALL TOWN HURT: With the country shut down, including USDA, the pain is starting to spread.
SMALL TOWN HURT: With the country shut down, including USDA, the pain is starting to spread.

It's that trickle-down impact of the shutdown that hurts small businesses. The big stand on the continuing budget resolution is impacting a range of businesses and services too. Even private-run public parks have had to close even though no federal employees even work on them - it impacts more than 1,000 parks according to the Property and Environment Research Center.

And the expired farm bill is starting to get some consumer media attention. Come January 1, consumers may face higher milk prices as 1949 pricing rules from a "permanent" farm bill go into force. Chances are we won't see that happen. At a minimum Congress can just extend the 2008 farm bill. As the shutdown drags on, farmers and others may be happy to see any action take place.

In his release, Calhoun urges Congress to pass the continuing resolution and get back to a new five-year farm bill or an extension of the 2008 bill.