Updated at 2:08 p.m. CST on Jan. 22.
Several USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) county-level employees who work in multiple states told AgWeb.com on Monday night that they are reporting back to work this Thursday, Jan. 24. USDA confirmed this to be true on Tuesday.
On Monday program staff (which is separate from the loan staff) was told by phone message to plan on being back in offices by the end of the week to offer “limited services.”
“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 press release. “The FSA provides vital support for farmers and ranchers and they count on those services being available. We want to offer as much assistance as possible until the partial government shutdown is resolved.”
According to the notification received by one FSA employee, limited services include the following programs which are part of the 2014 Farm Bill.
- Farm Loans, ARC, PLC, MALs, Sugar, MPP, LFP, ELAP, LIP, TAP, NAP, MFP
In addition, staff can work on AGIs, reconstitutions and other documentation that supports the above programs, as well as administrative functions essential to keeping the office open and helping customers.
The USDA has temporarily recalled all of the more than 9,700 FSA employees to keep offices open from 8 am to 4:30 pm weekdays beginning January 24. While President Trump has already signed legislation that guarantees employees will receive all backpay missed during the lapse in funding, not everyone is thrilled.
"The negative employee impacts that are the most concerning to NASCOE are the potential loss of unemployment benefits and the loss of the ability to utilize outside employment to make ends meet," says Dennis Ray, president of the National Association of FSA County Office Employees. "NASCOE is deeply concerned that the callback could force some employees to leave the agency and force others to make the decision to retire."
Additionally, Secretary Perdue announced on Tuesday that the deadline to apply for the Market Facilitation Program has been extended to February 14.