Farm Service Agency offices reopening

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Department of Agriculture will reopen all Farm Service Agency offices for limited services beginning tomorrow, the department said, calling in several thousand employees who have been furloughed during the government shutdown.

The reopening, and additional services available to farmers, follow a partial reopening the department announced last week for the period ending today.

“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working to alleviate the effects of the lapse in federal funding as best we can, and we are happy to announce the reopening of FSA offices for certain services,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release.

The department said it is recalling all of the more than 9,700 FSA employees, who will be paid retroactively when the shutdown ends. Until Feb. 8, offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

After Feb. 8, offices will be open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the agency said.

Officials at USDA have said they’re able to tap into unexpended funds from the prior fiscal year, and other sources, to keep limited services going during the shutdown.

The agency said it has worked with the Office of Management and Budget to identify accounts not affected by the lapse in appropriations and has determined that suspending some programs would prevent execution of underlying law.

In addition, the department said it would extend, from Jan. 15 to Feb. 14, the deadline for farmers to apply for assistance related to retaliatory trade tariffs.

Services to be offered include certain disaster payments and help with existing Conservation Reserve Program contracts, the agency said.

Assistance won’t be available for new CRP contracts, the Emergency Conservation Program and emergency forest rehabilitation, among other programs.