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USDA closed, but exempted and expected staff will work

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The government shutdown did not start to affect most American farmers until 8:00 a.m. today when federal offices would usually open.

Unless Congress agrees and the president signs a continuing resolution, most federal employees will be furloughed, without pay, and the jobs they do each day will be suspended or accomplished under the banner of “Critical Services”. A look at those workers who will be allowed to show up today and those who are caught in the politics of a government shutdown.

United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Friday night in a statement that “USDA is committed to safeguarding life and property through the critical services” provided by the federal agency. Those include food inspections through the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), import controls, core nutrition programs, and keeping Rural Development offices open in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. USDA says crop insurance services will continue, and indemnity payments will continue to be made. The U.S. Forest Service will continue emergency and defense preparedness, including fire suppression. Select services through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will continue, and the North American Free Trade Agreement  (NAFTA) negotiations will be supported and maintained.

Farmer interaction with USDA is mostly at county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. Those offices are closed until appropriations are restored with some exceptions. Almost all FSA staff will be furloughed until the budget impasse is resolved. There are 62 exempted employees and 10,944 employees that are excepted, meaning they are funded through annual appropriations, but nonetheless excepted from the furlough because they are performing work that, by law, may continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations.

The USDA Agency will use other means than office visits for communicating with the public, but the number of employees who will be on duty will diminish each day.

To view a full list of USDA services available during the government shutdown, click here.

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