As Shutdown Lingers, Farmers Begin To Worry

Three weeks into the federal government shutdown and the effects are starting to worry those in the agriculture industry.

Farmers rely on the government for financing, labor approval, and crop reports. They need all those things in the coming months.

“I think one of the challenges is the real unknown there,” says MSU Extension Farm Business Educator Daniel Ochs, “The effects down the road that we will see from the shut down.”

The winter is the time farmers spend planning next season’s crop. How much of what crops are decided this time of year but thanks to the government shutdown, Michigan’s farmers aren’t getting the insight they need.

“The margins are so tight in commodities right now that any piece of information could be really helpful from both a planting decision and also a pricing decision,” says Ochs.

The USDA crop reports have been postponed, the most important guide for farmers as they plan their season.

“Only time that report has ever been canceled will be in 2013,” says Ochs, “When there was another government shut down.”

It tells them what the rest of the world is growing and what is in demand and what to charge for it.

“Farms year-round are trying to figure out when to market their crops and that report can be a key indicator for which way prices are going to move,” says Ochs.

Not only will farmers not know what to plant but may not have anyone to help. H2-A permits are suspended for migrant workers plus subsidy payments, to help during the trade war with China, have been frozen

“If you didn’t make it through the system in time then you’re likely not going to see that payment until the government opens back up,” says Ochs.

It is not at a critical point yet, but if the shutdown goes another month, the effects will be felt. Usually it’s the weather or pests, now it is the federal government. Uncertainty is the only certain thing in farming.

“It certainly is, it certainly is,” says Ochs, “And this just adds to it.”