Some Eastern Washington offices of the Farm Service Agency will open their doors for a few days to handle a backlog of paperwork for growers and ranchers caused by the partial government shutdown.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday the decision to recall 2,500 employees nationwide to staff the offices Thursday, Friday and Tuesday. Those workers are part of a growing number of federal employees who are being recalled to work without pay while Congress and President Donald Trump remain at an impasse on funding for border security.
“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said in a statement announcing the decision. Offices in Spokane Valley, Pasco and Okanogan are among the eight locations in Washington that will be open for assistance through Tuesday, minus the weekend and Monday’s federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
One location that isn’t among the offices that will open is the FSA office in Ritzville, in the heart of Washington wheat country. Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Wheat Grower’s Association, said her organization was grateful for the announcement but concerned that the shutdown will continue to delay implementation of new features of the federal farm bill that passed Congress just days before federal workers were sent home.
“We have to appreciate that they are making the effort,” Hennings said. “But it’s a Band-Aid.”
The Agriculture Department is encouraging farmers and ranchers to reach their local office by telephone for assistance with existing loans, payments and tax documents to close out 2018. Processing of new applications for assistance will not be among the services provided, according to a news release.
A full list of the offices open can be found at farmers.gov.
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