Federal government shutdown to impact farmers, others

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(The Center Square) – With the potential for a partial federal government shutdown looming this weekend, officials across the states are bracing for possible impact.

A series of spending measures to keep various sectors of the federal government funded is tied up in Washington D.C. with a Democrat-controlled Senate at odds with a Republican-controlled House.

While Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies are set for October, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned what a shutdown could mean to nearly 168,000 beneficiaries of the federally-funded Women, Infants and Children nutrition program in Illinois.

“We have a contingency fund at USDA that might continue that for a day or two. Some states have leftover WIC benefits that have not been spent, which could extend it for a week or so in that state but the vast majority of WIC participants would see an immediate reduction and elimination of those benefits, which means the nutrition assistance provided would not be available,” Vilsack said.

The Illinois Department of Human Services said it is monitoring the situation, but the agency believes both SNAP and WIC benefits would not be impacted for Illinois customers during the month of October.

Farmers are bracing for a possible shutdown and for continued uncertainty on an updated farm bill.

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Kevin Semlow said a shutdown would have an impact on farm finances by halting various federally subsidized farm loans. The timing comes during harvest when people are looking to get the best commodity prices.

“Especially the marketing assistance loans, which help the farmers plan for and start buying their inputs for next year,” Semlow told The Center Square. “For many farmers, that’s a key tool in their financial tool belt that they need to have and without those offices being open, they will not be able to go in and start that process.”

Jumping from one crisis to the next, another deadline farmers are eying is the end of the month sunset of the five-year farm bill.

“It’s gonna push that back but we’re still hopeful and optimistic that Congress can bring closure to the budget impasse quickly, which allows them to move onto other pressing issues such as the farm bill,” Semlow said.

If the federal government shuts down on Sunday, Vilsack said that could limit technical assistance for legislators wanting to continue crafting a new farm bill.

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