WHAT HAPPENS TO AG IN A GOV’T SHUTDOWN?

Tricia Braid

Dec, 14, 2018  |  Today's News |  Legislation & Regulation

The following federal government closings are based on experience from the October, 2013 federal government shutdown, which lasted 16 days.  While the Administration has some discretion in determining what federal employees are essential to protection of life and property and should remain on the job, it is likely another government shutdown would have similar impacts on agencies and programs that rely on the appropriations process for funding.

 

In 2013, 800,000 federal civilian employees were furloughed on October 1.  Congress must approve retroactive pay for all federal employees furloughed during the shutdown and did so.  All employees who remain working through a shutdown are paid retroactively without separate approval from Congress.

 

When agency staff are furloughed due to the shutdown, they are not allowed to answer phone calls or email or otherwise carry out work for their respective agency, including using their personal phone and email.  Most federal government websites will also be unavailable; those websites that remain available will not be updated.

 

Department of Agriculture

Coinciding with the October 2013 shutdown, the Farm Bill also expired on September 30 and lapsed, which ended authority for some USDA programs until the Farm Bill was extended.  Also a number of payments such as CRP payments and direct payments were made in October so those were delayed.  A 2018 shutdown would not have those additional Farm Bill and payment complications.

  • The Farm Service Agency, including state and local offices, will be closed, as will all Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development Offices.  FSA will not be able to do any sign-ups, acre reporting, processing or payments, including farm loan applications and processing.

 

  • Risk Management Agency employees will also be furloughed.  As outlined in a memo to insurance providers at the start of the last shutdown, RMA staff will not be available to provide guidance to insurers or farmers.  RMA will not maintain and support policy processing and acceptance for insurance providers, nor will RMA make any reimbursements to insurance companies.  Companies can continue to pay insurance indemnities.

 

  • The Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) will not publish various market and data reports during a shutdown, including livestock price reports.  During the last shutdown, the National Agriculture Statistics Service delayed or canceled 21 data releases and reports.  Weekly crop reports will not be issued; in 2013 USDA ultimately canceled the monthly October WASDE and Crop Production reports due to the length of the shutdown.

 

  • Some USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) employees remain in their jobs during a shutdown, including pest inspectors and others working in export certifications because those salaries are covered by user fees.  Other employees, such as those at certain research facilities and overseas, are considered essential to protection of life and property and will not be furloughed.

 

  • During the last shutdown, food and nutrition programs continued to operate mostly as normal due to factors such as timing for reimbursements for school meals, available funds in states and contingency funds.

 

  • USDA considers Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees involved in federal inspections at meat processing facilities and support personnel as essential employees and exempt from the shutdown.  GIPSA also continues inspections covered by user fees.

 

Environmental Protection Agency

More than 90 percent of EPA staff were furloughed during the 2013 shutdown. 

 

Due to the stop in Federal Register publication and limited staff, EPA will not be able be able to move forward with any notice and comment rulemaking procedures, which may delay rulemaking timelines.

 

Trade and Related Functions

Following the 2013 shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget issued a report on its effects.  OMB stated the shutdown hindered trade by putting export and import licenses and applications on hold and stopping export promotion activities, citing examples from the Commerce Department and Export-Import Bank, as well as travel for trade agreement negotiations that was put on hold.   

 

These trade impacts affected the tech sector and other industries more than agriculture.  However, discretionary funded trade promotion activities will not be funded and won’t operate during the shutdown.

 

During the last shutdown, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security retained export enforcement staff for national security purposes.  Most Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel also remained on the job to continue to provide passenger processing and import cargo inspections at ports of entry, and law enforcement and revenue collection functions continued.