From lacking seed money to needing access to crop reports for spring planting, American farmers are taking another hit from the federal government as the partial shutdown puts a freeze on assistance for an already struggling sector of the U.S. economy.
The Washington Post reported last week that U.S. farmers who are suffering under President Donald Trump’s trade war with China have been unable to receive financial help promised under the administration’s aid package due to the shutdown.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on Tuesday that the deadline to apply for aid would be extended to January 15 in light of the now more than three-week shutdown — but that is of little consolation to farmers who need immediate help.
Virginia farmer John Boyd told the Post that his government check had not arrived, and he has run out of seeds.
When he drove to his local Farm Service Agency office for some answers, Boyd was greeted by a note on the door explaining the office was closed due to the lapse in federal funding.
“This shutdown is affecting small people like myself, but if it continues, America is going to feel the impact everywhere — grocery stores, small businesses,” Boyd fumed, angry about the “fiasco” he feels Trump has created. “Right now, I need seed and diesel fuel; I do not need a damn wall. That does not help me in my farming operation.”
For farmers who had late harvests, the situation isn’t just about checks failing to arrive — they can’t even apply until after the shutdown is resolved.
About $5.2 billion in checks already have gone out since the program began, including 360,000 payments collectively worth $3 billion since the government shut down, according to Tim Murtaugh, a USDA spokesman. But farmers who did not certify their crop production before the shutdown began cannot do so until the government is running again because the offices of the Farm Service Agency, which is administering the bailout, are closed.
On top of not receiving financial aid, American farmers are also missing crucial reports put together by the government with key economic data for determining how the farmers will plant this spring.
“They’re being asked to make planting decisions in an informational vacuum,” said Steve Suppan, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “Unless you’re a very large operator, it’s got to be very difficult right now to do farm management planning with any kind of confidence at all. The shutdown aggravates that.”
Regardless of whether they blame Trump, the Democrats, or Congress in general, farmers simply want politicians to end the shutdown.
Soybean farmer Robert Proffitt told the Post while those in Washington have “politicized the wall” and are “just making news”, he and others can’t pay their bills and take care of their families.
Without his anticipated support check of $13,200, he’s in dire straits.
“This shutdown is really affecting us dramatically,” he said. “We’re not in financial shape to miss a whole planting season. Congress needs to address this — with the urgency of now.”