The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will be reopening some Farm Service Agency offices around the country to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers. These are offices that have been closed as part of the partial shutdown. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says they won’t be able to reopen all offices.
“We are calling back about 2,500 FSA employees to serve our customers’ needs,” Perdue said. “That’s going to be about almost half of our FSA offices, not all will be. It depends on the duties of processing payments, receiving checks, and different things like that. That information can be found on the website at farmers.gov, usda.gov, or on Twitter @secretarysonny or at USDA Facebook.”
Offices will temporarily reopen on Thursday, January 17th and Friday, January 18th. After closing Monday, January 21st for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday they’ll reopen one more time on Tuesday, January 22nd. Perdue says, while the offices are open, they won’t be able to offer their usual full range of services.
“Unfortunately, we’re not able to do everything that we would like to do, but we’re continuing to work on creative legal solutions of how we can serve farmers’ needs the way.”
The Indiana service centers opening are in Columbia City, Greensburg, Marion, New Castle, Rensselaer, Rockville, Salem and Vincennes. For a complete rundown of services available during the three-day window, check out this link.
FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline. USDA said in its release that farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.
FSA staff are available in person during this three-day open window but most available services can be handled over the phone.
Indiana Farm Bureau president Randy Kron commended the action saying, “We are pleased with USDA’s announcement of opening select FSA offices during the government shutdown. Many of Indiana’s farmers are in the process of planning for next year’s crop, and the shutdown has caused concern in the agricultural community. By allowing farmers to address existing loans, some of those concerns can be addressed and farmers will move forward knowing that they will be able to plant a crop in 2019. We appreciate the decision made by USDA and the willingness of FSA employees to assist farmers with these important decisions while on furlough.”