IFB president shares farmer concerns with Perdue

Uncertainty over shutdown, loan payments and more leads to "stress out in the countryside."

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently called 2,500 furloughed FSA workers back to work to temporarily reopen some FSA offices in Illinois. (Photo courtesy of AFBF)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. this week shared farmers’ concerns about the partial government shutdown with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Guebert joined AFBF’s executive committee members during a private breakfast with Perdue at AFBF’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, AFBF delegates approved a Sense of the Delegate Body Resolution calling on the administration and Congress to “work earnestly and cooperatively” to reopen the government. North Carolina Farm Bureau sponsored the resolution.

“We’re not pointing the finger at anybody. We’re not taking sides,” said Larry Wooten of North Carolina. “This government shutdown, if it continues, is going to have a tremendous adverse impact to our producers.”

The government shutdown has prevented farmers from securing needed loans and disaster and trade assistance, and will delay implementation of the farm bill and the proposed Clean Water Rule.

Guebert said some farmers couldn’t make loan payments or get checks for grain delivered after county FSA offices closed. Meanwhile, trade has added to the uncertainty, he said. The United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement has yet to be approved by Congress, and China negotiations remain unsettled.

“Farmers are in the process of making plans for the 2019 growing season – do they plant more corn, do they plant more soybeans – what’s the mix? Meanwhile, commodity prices remain at or below production cost,” Guebert said. “There is a lot of stress out in the countryside.”

Several days after the breakfast, Perdue called 2,500 furloughed FSA workers back to work to temporarily reopen some FSA offices. In Illinois, 31 offices were opened for three days.

Workers helped farmers with existing farm loans and ensured the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline. They also helped process payments made on or before Dec. 31, 2018.

“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said.

In a press release, USDA said farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.