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top 10 food safety stories May 2012

USDA offers additional FSA office openings during shutdown

Beginning Jan. 24, offices will be open Monday through Friday for two weeks and three days following week, if needed.

All Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices nationwide will soon reopen to provide additional administrative services to farmers and ranchers during the lapse in federal funding, according to a statement the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued Tuesday afternoon.

Certain FSA offices have been providing limited services for existing loans and tax documents since Jan. 17 and will continue to do so through Jan. 23. Beginning Jan. 24, however, all FSA offices will open and will offer a longer list of transactions they will accommodate.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also announced that the deadline to apply for the Market Facilitation Program, which aids farmers harmed by unjustified retaliatory tariffs, 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.

“At President [Donald] Trump’s direction, we have been working to alleviate the effects of the lapse in federal funding as best we can, and we are happy to announce the reopening of FSA offices for certain services,” Perdue said. “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.”

USDA has temporarily recalled all of the more than 9,700 FSA employees to keep offices open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays beginning Jan. 24. Trump has already signed legislation guaranteeing that employees will receive all backpay missed during the lapse in funding.

For the first two full weeks under this operating plan (Jan. 28-Feb. 1 and Feb. 4-8), FSA offices will be open Mondays through Fridays. In subsequent weeks, offices will be open three days a week -- on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays -- if needed to provide the additional administrative services.

USDA said FSA staff will work on the following transactions: Market Facilitation Program; marketing assistance loans; release of collateral warehouse receipts; direct and guaranteed farm operating loans and emergency loans; service 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 & Farm-raised Fish Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; Tree Assistance Program, and remaining Wildfires & Hurricanes Indemnity Program payments for applications already processed.

Transactions that will not be available include, but are not limited to: new Conservation Reserve Program contracts; new direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans; Farm Storage Facility Loan Program; new or in-process Wildfires & Hurricanes Indemnity Program applications; Emergency Conservation Program; Emergency Forest Rehabilitation Program; Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and Grassroots Source Water Protection Program.

With the White House Office of Management & Budget, USDA reviewed all of its funding accounts that are not affected by the lapse in appropriation. USDA said it further refined this list to include programs where the suspension of the activity associated with these accounts would significantly damage or prevent the execution of the terms of the underling statutory provision.

“As a result of this review, USDA was able to except more employees. Those accounts that are not impacted by the lapse in appropriation include mandatory, multiyear and no-year discretionary funding, including [fiscal] 2018 farm bill activities,” USDA said in its statement.

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