Federal shutdown adding to ag’s woes
LEWES, Del. — President Donald Trump should end his shutdown of the federal government, which is putting farmers in financial jeopardy as the spring planting season approaches, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper said this month.
Carper held a press conference at Magee Farms in Lewes on Friday, Jan. 11 to criticize the partial shutdown, which, as of Friday, Jan. 18, was ending its fourth week — the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.
Trump is effectively “holding a lot of Americans and farmers hostage” in a gambit to secure taxpayer money to build his promised Mexican border wall, the Democratic senator said. The USDA is a critical source of advisement and funding for growers already dealing with the consequences of the president’s ongoing trade war with China, he said.
“The president said, ‘Well, we know my tariff problem is hurting the bottom line of our farmers, so we’ll provide some financial assistance to those farmers,’” he said, referring to the USDA’s $12 billion program to protect farmers from trade retaliation. “Unfortunately, that assistance is cut off.”
Christopher W. Magee, 32, said he can’t access his federal credit line for the upcoming growing season and is nervously waiting to pay bills for seeds, fertilizer and land rent.
“If we get to the end of January, what are we going to do?” he said. “In theory, I can’t pay any of my bills.”
Farmers have already taken a significant cut due to Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans, he said.
“I applaud Mr. Trump for what he’s doing and how he’s doing it, but me, as a young farmer, you took 30 percent from me that I’ll never get back,” he said.
Carper said he’s a strong supporter of border security but believes the issue should be separated from the federal budgetary process.
“Mr. President, why don’t you sign six appropriations bills that have nothing to do with border security?” he said. “Put people back to work within our government so they can do their jobs and help people.”
The USDA announced Jan. 16 that many Farm Service Agency offices will reopen temporarily to farmers and ranchers who need assistance with existing farm loans or 1099 tax documents. FSA offices would not be able to service new loans or applications for other assistance programs such as the Dairy Margin Protection Program.
Farmer Ellen Magee, Christopher Magee’s mother, said she supports Trump’s border efforts but thinks the shutdown has unfairly hurt farmers.
“I work every day, and our government should work every day,” she said.
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