Luckily for dairy farmer Mike Nolan, co-owner of Kenyon Hill Farm in Jackson, his farm’s paperwork got completed just before the federal government shut down.
“Our year was wrapped up,” he said. “We just got done in time.”
But Nolan said other farmers could still be working on required government paperwork that gets filed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, whose county offices are closed for the federal shutdown, with workers furloughed.
“I’m sure it’s affecting some farmers,” he said, explaining that some may have just gotten their corn in.
The way Nolan explained it, some farms apply through the Farm Service Agency for low interest loans on the value of the corn, which becomes the bank’s collateral. Farmers use those funds as upfront money to pay off their fertilizer bills.
“If they can’t get the money, it really affects them” he said.
According to the USDA shutdown plan, all Farm Service Agency offices are closed. Farm loan programs would be on hold after the first week of the shutdown.
That means farms do not have access to USDA funding, critical reports and production certification, and cannot file necessary reports related to crop insurance or apply for various federal subsidies, including the second payment from the tariff relief program.
“Some of the more immediate concerns will be for farmers who have yet to apply for assistance from the trade mitigation package,” said Steve Ammerman, New York Farm Bureau spokesman, on Thursday. “Right now, with FSA offices being closed, they have halted the processing of new applications for Market Facilitation Program payments, which are designed to provide a measure of relief from ongoing trade challenges.”
The Market Facilitation Program — run by the USDA Farm Service Agency — provides direct payments to eligible producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, hogs, shelled almonds and fresh sweet cherries, according to the USDA.
Application deadlines were Jan. 15, and certification of their 2018 production must be done by May 1. According to the USDA, farmers cannot get their tariff relief money until their certification is complete, but Farm Service Agency and other USDA offices must be open for farm owners and operators to complete the required certification paperwork.
USDA said in a release that the deadlines would be extended to a time after the shutdown ends.
Kenyon Hill Farm, which is eligible for the tariff relief, already received both relief payments, Nolan said.
“If they (farmers) didn’t get their paperwork in time, for whatever reason, they wouldn’t be able to get their payments,” he said.
According to state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, any change that places additional strain on local farms hurts. The closure of county FSA offices is “not good,” she said.
“The USDA office in Greenwich is very helpful to area farmers and the financial condition for most is very tight and this is very difficult,” she said.
Sandy Buxton, farm business management educator for Washington County Cooperative Extension, said, because of the shutdown, the loan credit team is furloughed and any farmers who want to apply for loans for spring operating money are unable to do so.
“They need spring money before March and April,” Buxton said, adding that it sometimes takes up to 90 days for farmers to get their money, so time is running out.
Crop insurance deadlines are also coming up, she said.
“They have to have documentation to be able to apply for the insurance,” she said.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill in a 243 to 183 vote to reopen the Department of Agriculture, including the Farm Service Agencies.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, was one of 10 Republicans to break with her party and vote for the measure. But it is unlikely it will pass the Senate.
Little said she is unaware of any state initiatives to help farmers during the shutdown.
“I am hoping they can get this resolved,” she said.