By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
OMAHA (DTN) -- USDA will reopen about half of the country's Farm Service Agency offices for three days starting Thursday to help farmers with existing farm loans and provide tax documents to borrowers such as 1099 forms.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday that about 2,500 Farm Service Agency workers were recalled to open offices for Thursday, Jan. 17, Friday, Jan.18, and Tuesday, Jan. 22. For normal business hours. Offices will not be open Monday, Jan. 21, because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Perdue said USDA was trying to minimize the impact of the partial government shutdown on farmers. "We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans," Perdue said. "Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown."
A USDA spokesperson said that the 2,500 or so FSA employees affected by the lapse in funding will receive back pay under legislation President Trump is signing Wednesday.
Several agencies have recalled furloughed workers back to offices to work unpaid until Congress and President Donald Trump reach some agreement on funding that will end the shutdown.
USDA stated FSA staff would process payments made on or before Dec. 31, 2018, open mail to identify priority items and help with continuing expired financial statements. USDA staff will also release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by farmers.
USDA noted that farmers who have loan deadlines during the funding laps do not need to make payments during the government shutdown.
Farm Service Agency staff will not be available for other services, including helping with new direct or facility loans; new farm loan guarantees; new marketing assistance loans; new applications for the Market Facilitation Program, or certification for production for MFP payments; the Dairy Margin Protection Program; Emergency Conservation Program; Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish.
USDA also has extended the deadline for producers to apply for the Market Facilitation Program, but FSA will not reset the deadline for the MFP sign-up until the department has received funding authority. As noted above, FSA staff will not be working on that program during the three days of open offices.
USDA's website provides a list of the specific offices that will be open. https://www.farmers.gov/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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