Following the government shutdown, the Indiana Farm Service Agency is back in business, but does not have a lot of programs to administer. After being furloughed for 16 days, local FSA employees returned to work last week ready to administer federal farm programs. FSA state director Julia Wickard told HAT that during the shutdown she kept local staff informed on developments, “I used social media and personal e-mails to keep employees up to speed on developments.” She set up a special Facebook page to allow employees to stay informed and communicate during one of the few shutdowns in the agency’s history. While it will take a few more days to get all the systems and programs back up and running, Wickard says they should start making payments later this week, “We should be ready to make CRP payments in the next few days.” Paperwork that was in process was delayed during the shutdown, but resumed late last week as employees at local offices along with state and federal FSA offices came back to work.
But with no new Farm Bill, current programs expired at the end of September and FSA cannot enroll farmers in any of the programs for 2014. Wickard said, “We can offer NAP crop insurance, marketing assistance loans, commodity loans, and farm storage facility loans, but most of our other programs are currently suspended indefinitely until Congress acts on a new Farm Bill.” Wickard is optimistic a Farm Bill will be adopted by the end of the year and program enrollment will resume. Even then, however, it may take several weeks — if not months — for the USDA to develop the new procedures and computer software to administer these programs.