Government in shutdown mode, Perdue outlines USDA services while ag reacts

In the processing plant (cooling) of poultry carcasses in the meat processing plant birds

The U.S. government is in shutdown mode, with the first business day of the shutdown on Jan. 22. In anticipation of the shutdown Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Oct. 19 outlined U.S. Department of Agriculture services available in the event of a government shutdown.

“USDA is committed to safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide—and should the government shut down, we will continue to do just that,” Perdue said.

“I am proud of each USDA employee for everything they do to benefit the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our services. It is their mission each day to fulfill our USDA motto, ‘Do right and feed everyone.’”

USDA services available during the government shutdown include:

Food Safety and Inspection Service:

  • FSIS will continue work to ensure meat, poultry, and egg products are safe and prevent the movement or sale in commerce of any meat or poultry products which are adulterated;
  • Inspect before and after slaughter those birds and animals intended for use as food for humans and inspect the further processing of meat and poultry products;
  • Apply foreign governments’ inspection requirements and procedures to verify that products exported from the United States are safe;
  • Conduct emergency operations in connection with the voluntary recall of meat or poultry products determined to be adulterated, or misbranded;
  • Conduct epidemiological investigations based on reports of food-borne health hazards and disease outbreaks;
  • Monitor allied industries to prevent uninspected, misbranded, or adulterated meat, poultry and egg products from illegally entering channels of commerce;
  • Provide pathological, microbiological, chemical, and other scientific examination of meat, poultry and egg products for disease, infection, contamination, or other types of adulteration; and
  • Conduct a microbiological monitoring and surveillance program.

Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service:

  • APHIS will ensure: Imported products do not bring pests and diseases into the U.S.; In the case of a pest or disease outbreak, the appropriate emergency personnel would come back to work immediately;
  • Overseas staff that provide for national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property, are excepted;
  • Personnel from the APHIS Emergency Management, Safety and Security Division will respond as necessary to provide technical assistance and conduct investigations for excepted and exempt activities;
  • Animal Care will have staff on call to address issues related to licensed or registered facilities (such as immediate needs related to the care or treatment of animals; capture or containment of dangerous animals, or the required confiscation of animals);
  • Biotechnology Regulatory Services will monitor the compliance call line for incidents related to genetically engineered organisms. If an incident needs follow up, the correct regulatory and investigative personnel will be called in to work;
  • Security staff will be available on a case-by-case basis to respond to security incidents and to coordinate facility access;
  • Foreign animal disease diagnosticians and incident command system teams will be available on a case-by-case basis to respond to FAD investigations and FAD emergencies;
  • Laboratory personnel will be available to run tests on samples associated with foreign animal disease investigations, and, at the beginning of the period, to close out pending lab tests; and
  • Staffing at National Wildlife Research Center and its associated field stations to care for the animals being studied.

Food and Nutrition Service:

  • FNS will ensure: Ongoing activities include essential federal functions to maintain the core programs of the nutrition safety net, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Child Nutrition Programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children;
  • All of these programs will continue to serve eligible people through USDA’s partners (State agencies and other grantees) utilizing legally available federal resources previously provided to them or their own resources. All have funding available to operate through the month of February, and many have funds to continue operations through March, without additional appropriation.
  • Disaster feeding operations under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and the Stafford Act would remain available based on the exception to fund functions critical to health and safety;
  • The smaller discretionary programs should utilize funds already allocated and made available for operation of programs. Food already purchased for delivery to the Food Distribution programs; and
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, USDA foods for Child Nutrition Programs, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, will continue to be delivered to program operators.

Rural Development:

  • RD will: Continue its fiduciary responsibilities in accounting for and processing customers’ funds, such as loan escrow accounts, in an accurate and timely manner;
  • Ensure those individuals who hold single-family housing loans from RD are able to make their monthly payments and will be held accountable to monthly mortgage payment deadlines;
  • Ensure organizations holding USDA Rural Development loans will still be able to make their payments and will be held accountable for making on-time loan payments;
  • Ensure Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands offices will continue to be open during a federal funding lapse to assist in continued disaster recovery efforts; and
  • Staff at these offices will be able to conduct inspections of existing projects, and they will also be available to provide technical assistance to USDA customers.

Risk Management Agency:

  • RMA will ensure: Crop insurance companies will continue to deliver and service the federal crop insurance program during a government shutdown; and
  • Approved Insurance Providers will stay open and agents and loss adjustors will be fully available; Indemnity payments will continue to be made.

U.S. Forest Service:

  • USFS will continue work in: Emergency and Defense Preparedness;
  • Fire Suppression including fire fighters and all necessary equipment costs to protect life and property, Law Enforcement personnel and all necessary equipment costs to protect life and property, and emergency and natural disasters response or preparation (e.g., floods and avalanche control);
  • Protection of federal lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property and investments owned by the United States when the suspension of such activities would cause an imminent threat to human life and property. This includes nurseries, insectaries, tree seed labs, and the minimum level of staffing to administer permits and contracts needed for protection of National Forest System lands;
  • All contracts in support of cyber security, land-based radio communications, and infrastructure operations to support key positions and essential personnel;
  • Protection of Research studies where lack of continuation measurements or maintenance would destroy or endanger validity of research findings; and
  • Job Corps operations unless directed otherwise by Department of Labor.

Agricultural Marketing Service:

  • The following services will remain available through AMS: Commodity Procurement;
  • Grading and Inspection;
  • Cotton Classing;
  • Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Program;
  • Research and Promotion Board Oversight;
  • FGIS: Inspection and Weighing Services (user fee funded activities);
  • Farm bill funded activities.
  • Economic Research Service: ERS will: Ensure coordination of data calls;
  • Maintain agency Local Area Network and Wide Area Network systems;
  • Ensure all systems remain online and functional; and
  • Require COOP team staff for both readiness activities such as maintaining operable communications as well as implementation or activation activities, and to ensure adequate communication with the USDA OpsCenter.

National Resources Conservation Service:

  • NRCS will continue their work in: Puerto Rico and Virgin Island Activities;
  • Emergency Watershed Protection; and
  • Dam monitoring.

Agricultural Research Service:

  • ARS will: Continue performing duties related to preserving and protecting ARS facilities, animals and critical research infrastructure.
  • Foreign Agricultural Service: FAS will: Support NAFTA negotiations;
  • Engage on issues pending in the World Trade Organization;
  • Operate the Commodity Credit Corporation-funded Export Credit Guarantee Program (GSM-102);
  • Maintain international offices at U.S. embassies around the world.

Farm Service Agency:

  • FSA will ensure: All FSA local service centers and farm loan programs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remain active.

Office of the Chief Economist:

  • OCE will continue supporting the ongoing NAFTA negotiations;
  • China negotiations in Geneva; and
  • the OECD.

One major farm group to react to the shutdown was the National Association of Wheat Growers, whose president, Gordon Stoner of Outlook, Montana, issued the following statement:

“Funding the government is a basic charge of Congress, and failing to do so impacts farmers across the country.

“Shutting down the government means vital agencies like USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency local offices are closed or functioning on a limited basis. Growers won’t have access to data and reports needed for planting and harvesting, farm loans and credit, and other critical services needed to run their operations.

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“A government shutdown also means that Congress has failed to act on an FY18 funding bill which holds several beneficial programs for wheat growers. Several important wheat research provisions in both the House and Senate ag appropriations bills would help farmers to grow more and better crops while using fewer inputs, thus advancing the industry and helping consumers.

"We call upon Congress to reopen the government immediately and thereby maintain operations of essential farm programs. Failing to keep the government open due to funding is fiscally irresponsible and bad for farmers and all of agriculture.”

National Pork Producers Council president Ken Maschhoff said his group valued the Livestock Mandatory Reporting program, managed by AMS, and inspection services provided by FSIS, and that those would continue as essential USDA activities.

“NPPC appreciates the leadership provided by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Undersecretary of Marketing and Regulatory Affairs Greg Ibach and Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg,” Maschhoff said. “Inspection and market news reporting are essential to the proper functioning of responsible commerce in the U.S. pork industry during the uncertainty of a federal government shutdown.

“The availability of LMR market data ensures that reliable and accurate information that influence critical business decisions are available to thousands of producers and other market participants, including those in the futures market.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].