USDA focuses on feed crop farmers, ranchers with three-day opening of FSA offices

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

USDA reopens FSA offices for three-day window, but MFP services remain shuttered © GettyImages/
USDA reopens FSA offices for three-day window, but MFP services remain shuttered © GettyImages/

Related tags Usda shutdown

US feed crop, grain and animal producers will see selective supports provided during a temporary opening of Farm Service Agency offices.

However, additional applications for the feed crop supporting Market Facilitation Program will not be collected during the window. 

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced​ Wednesday [January 16] that it would be opening multiple Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices for a limited period to provide select services to feed grain producers, farmers and ranchers.

US shutdown continues

The US government has been in a partial governmental shutdown​ since late December when funding for several departments – including the USDA – ran out.

As there continue to be disagreements between legislative parties regarding a presidential request of more than $5bn in funding for a US-Mexico border wall, it is still not known when the shutdown will come to an end.

At this point, about 2,500 employees have been recalled to open offices this Thursday and Friday and on Tuesday [January 22], the USDA said.

This time of year is one where feed grain and ingredient producers look to the Farm Service Agency to have grain bins sealed, said John Heisdorffer, chairman with the American Soybean Association.

That practice allows producers to borrow against their grain to buy inputs for the upcoming crop or to stretch out the selling process over time on the expectation of finding a better price later in the year.

“It’s that time of year, so it gives farmers an opportunity to get this done because we don’t know how long the shutdown will last,”​ he told us. “And it opens the opportunity for a few days to get something done.”

“We know MFP [Market Facilitation Program] is not one of the things they will be doing – but there is plenty of time to do that with what the secretary [of agriculture] has said,”​ he added.

Staff at many of the open offices will be able to help producers with existing loans and provide some tax documentation, said the USDA. Other services that will be provided during the three-day window include processing payments made before the end of 2018, extending expiring financing statements, opening mail and staff may “release proceeds from the sale of loan security.”

The department is doing its best to reduce the effect of the partial funding lapse on producers, said Sonny Perdue, US secretary of agriculture.

New feed crop support apps still on hold

However, feed crop producers seeking to apply for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) will not be able to do so at this time, the USDA said.

The USDA established the program​in July 2018 to provide financial support to producers of select feed grains, crops and animal producers – including corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat – who saw trade damage from ongoing retaliation and trade uncertainty.

Producers initially had until January 15 to apply for the program, the USDA said.

“Farmers have been unable to apply since December 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding,” ​the department said. “Secretary Perdue has extended the MFP application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends.”

The three upcoming days will not be considered days open when the USDA calculates the extension of the application window, the department said.

While FSA offices are temporarily open, they will not be taking new applications for the market facilitation program or certifying 2018 production for MFP payments.

However, producers who had previously applied for the MFP and had their crop production certified should have already received a payment, the department added.  

Additionally, while the offices are open other services that will not be provided include new direct or facility loans, new farm loan guarantees, new marketing assistance loans, the dairy margin protection program or disaster assistance programs, the department said. 

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