In DC these days, the million dollar question is whether or not the government is going to shut down and if so, for how long. Everywhere you go, from the grocery store to the gym, people are talking about it, speculating on what it will mean and comparing it to ’95, when it last happened. Every few hours there is an update suggesting a change for the better or worse but, in reality, no one really knows. So, what will happen if the government shuts down and what does it mean for ag?
This afternoon, many government agencies began sharing their shutdown plans. According to news reports from an official familiar with the agency’s plans, certain USDA activities would continue because they are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property, or are financed through available funding (such as through user fees). These include:
- Meat, poultry and egg inspection services
- Grain and other commodity inspection, weighing and grading services funded by user fees
- Inspections for import and export activities to prevent the introduction and dissemination of pests into and out of the U.S.
- Forest Service law enforcement and fire suppression efforts.
In addition, funds have been made available to continue the Women, Infants and Children and Child Nutrition programs through June, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has sufficient funding to allow benefits to continue through May.
Most other USDA activities would not be continued during a government shutdown. These activities include:
- Farm loans and other farm payments
- Provision of conservation technical and financial assistance
- Provision of new rural development loans and grants for housing, community facilities, utilities and businesses
- Agricultural export credit and other agricultural trade development and monitoring activities
- National Forest System recreation sites across the U.S. would be closed to the public
- Market news reports, NASS statistics, and other agricultural economic and statistical reports and projections would be discontinued
- Investigation of packers and stockyards related to fraudulent and anti-competitive activities
- Assistance for the control of most plant and animal pests and diseases would be discontinued
- Research facilities would be closed except for the care of animals and plants
- Most departmental management, administrative and oversight functions, including civil rights, human resources, financial management, audit, legal and information technology activities would be discontinued or severely curtailed.
For NCGA, 122 C Street will remain open for business. We will continue to advocate for our farmers as if the government was still up and running, as will most non-government entities. On Capitol Hill and in government agencies, whether you will come to work on Monday is yet to be determined. The only employees that will remain are those deemed essential or if their job includes the protection of life and property or are financed through available funding such as through user fees.
For those staffers deemed non- essential, they will be furloughed and at this time will not get paid. Another interesting twist to this shutdown is that it will be literally be illegal for federal employees deemed non-essential to voluntarily work during a shutdown. So that means thousands of employees will be turning in their high tech gadgets and going through withdrawal from their government issued laptops, cell phones and – gasp! — BlackBerries.
I’m sure the next 36 hours in DC will be a nail-biter and we’ll see who actually holds the answer to the million dollar question.