Government shutdown starting to affect farmers

Farmers starting to feel the effects of government shutdown

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The shutdown not only affects government employees but also others, like farmers, who depend on their services.

Brandon Vail is a fifth generation farmer. Right now, he’s loading trucks with rice harvested in August.

“I’ve grown wheat, soybeans, corn, sesame, milo, crawfish. I’ve tried just about everything. Rice and cattle seem to consistently make money,” said Vail.

The government shutdown means he and other farmers have not had access to offices that process and administer crop insurance and farm loan programs.

Vail says it’s mostly an inconvenience for him, at this point, but he says less established farmers are more likely to suffer.

“These guarantees aren’t being able to be processed which is going to put some farmers behind on getting their loan. So, it might delay planning. It might delay things of that nature,” he said.

And Vail says if the shutdown drags on for months, there could be serious financial problems.

"If you can't pay your suppliers, whenever you go to buy seed, and fertilizer and your chemical, that's really going to back you up," said Vail.

Farmers also rely on the federal government for visas allowing them to employ foreign workers.

“As long as those visas are being processed, we’re okay, but if that shuts down. we have a very hard time finding local labor. We can’t compete with industry where someone can go and start off at $21 an hour and have benefits. And I don’t blame them,” Vail said.

Many farm service offices are closed, but the USDA is temporarily opening some to provide limited services.

Willie Danos is a farmer and president of the Calcasieu Farm Bureau.

“They can process payments that were made before the end of the year. They can work on loans that were already started. No new loans or any disaster programs; they won’t be able to do any of that, but they’re trying, I guess, to lessen the burden on these growers during the shutdown,” said Danos.

He says growers who need to start loans for the upcoming year will likely have to wait until the shutdown ends.

For a list of the Farm Service Agency offices temporarily open click here.

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