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Government closure continues impacting agriculture

After nearly two weeks of being closed, the impact of federal government shutdown continues to affect agriculture producers across the country. 

One of the major impacts of the shutdown is the lack of data being released by USDA.

“Livestock producers, packers and end users are trying to adjust now that all of the USDA market reporting they had come to depend upon has stopped,” commented CME Group on Oct. 4. 

The result, they continue, is that packers are working closely with producers and customers to establish the parameters of pricing product that in the past was done on a formula basis.

“Price discovery has always been challenging,” added CME Group. “In recent years, however, thanks to congressional mandates and the expansion of USDA’s ability to collect market information, price discovery for many participants became almost costless, sometimes an afterthought.”

Missing reports

Included in the reports that have been postponed are September’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report and production and price summary data.

Other reports that will not be released include the October Crop Report. 

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture notes that market analysts heavily rely on the October Crop Report.uDespite the shutdown of the majority of USDA’s services, the Mandatory Price Reporting Datamart is still operative and available at mpr.datamart.ams.usda.gov.

Though new information is not available on the site, historic data is still accessible through Sept. 27.

Farm bill

In the midst of the closure, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) continues its push to resolve the Farm Bill. Especially in the wake of recent natural disasters, NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kristina Butts noted that the Farm Bill is incredibly important now. 

Recent natural disasters, Butts says, such as last year’s droughts, fires, floods and most recently early and destructive snow storms in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, have illustrated the need for disaster assistance provisions for farmers and ranchers. 

The 2008 Farm Bill, which was temporarily extended, included disaster assistance provisions but only for four years, so producers affected by these recent disasters are left with considerable uncertainty.

Though the shutdown is hampering lobbying efforts of NCBA, they continue to push for their additional goals of border security, labor and immigration reform.

NASDA reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has floated the idea of attaching the Farm Bill to a broader budget discussion. 

Despite the shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner (R - Ohio) could appoint conferees to negotiate the House and Senate Farm Bills soon. The Senate is heavily pressuring Boehner to appoint conferees. 

State impacts

In addition to impacts through agriculture, the state of Wyoming required that 233 federally funded employees were placed on furlough, effective Oct. 7.

“It is not easy for me to write today,” Govenor Matt Mead wrote in a letter to those individuals.  “I know there has been great uncertainty for you since the federal shutdown began on Tuesday.  It is a troubling time, and while I cannot change the situation – only Congress and the President can do that – I do hope the situation is resolved soon.”

Wyoming employs 9,867 individuals and of those, 1,600 positions are funded in whole or in part by federal funds. 

The 233 employees immediately impacted are paid with funds not available without a federal budget on Oct. 1. The number of employees subject to furlough may grow if the federal shutdown continues past Oct. 30.

The Departments of Environmental Quality, Family Services, the Military and Parks and Cultural Resources employ the 233 individuals. The furlough impact on each employee will vary depending on the salary percentage of federal funds to other funds, including state general funds. 

In a letter to the affected employees, Mead noted that it is a difficult time, and the action was difficult to take.  He and his staff explored all options, but found that state and federal law required the furloughs of employees.  

“The state cannot pay for all federally funded positions. However, the state is trying to take the best path forward,” Mead wrote. 

Mead has authorized employees to use accrued annual leave, if they choose to do so. They are eligible for unemployment insurance.

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article.