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Hard To Get Farm Bill Info During Shutdown


The partial shutdown of the Federal Government is hitting at the same time that the current farm bill expires. What does that expiration mean for farm programs, including conservation?

In the run-up to the current extension to farm bill running out, the Iowa office of the Natural Resources Conversation Service was signing up people for conservation programs, whose funding had not yet been secured.

On the first day of the partial government shutdown on Oct. 1st, a call to the Public Information Officer at the Iowa NRCS, to check on that sign-up, produced this voice mail message,"Hello, you’ve reached Laura Crowell of the Des Moines NRCS office. I’m not in the office at the time. I’m on furlough."

A call to the Illinois Public Information Officer provided a similar message, "Hello you’ve reached Paige Buck of the NRCS office in Champaign, Illinois. I’m not in the office at this time, I’m on furlough due to a lapse in federal funding government funding."

A call to a Missouri County office of the NRCS produced nearly the same results.

Someone at the Iowa Farm Service Administration office did pick up, but only to say that she couldn’t answer any questions and that the only thing she could do was hang up.

Which she did moments later.

All USDA websites including the NRCS and FSA redirect you to USA.GOV, which has links to PDF’s detailing the “government’s shutdown strategy” for each agency.

On the NRCS’s PDF, for  “Contracts, Grants and Agreements” it said “Work under NRCS authority and requiring NRCS support, oversight, assistance, etc. will cease during a shutdown period, unless deemed as “excepted” operations.”

Scott Stuntz is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.