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The effects of the government shutdown are starting to be felt in rural parts of the country.
For example, implementing the new farm bill is on hold, Anna Johnson, Midwest policy manager for the Center for Rural Affairs and based in Iowa, said in a weekend IowaWatch Connection radio report now available in a podcast.
Johnson said the farm bill’s hundreds of pages have legislative orders that U.S. Department of Agriculture officials must wade through to determine marching orders for implementing the bill. Their tasks include writing new rules and deciding what kinds of guidance documents the department needs to release.
“All of that work that should be going on at the department right now is essentially on hold because the USDA is under the shutdown,” Johnson said in the radio report. “And so instead, the officials who are still there are forced to be working on the shutdown, and we’re not able to move forward with this farm bill that Congress worked really hard to pass.”
The shutdown has been going on since Dec. 22. USDA Farm Service Agency county offices stopped operating Dec. 28 because its funding ran out so its programs, such as market assistance and FSA loan guidance, are not available.
“Any loan activity that farmers would normally be doing right now, they’re not able to work with their local FSA offices to get their loans in place for the coming season,” Johnson said. Federally supported rural services for housing, community facilities, utilities and rural businesses also are on hold, she said.
On a larger scale, Ernie Goss, Creighton University economist in Omaha, Nebraska, said an economic analysis shows a government shutdown could shave as much as one-half of a percentage point from growth in the nation’s production output as measured by its gross domestic product, or GDP.
“Now, it depends on, of course, how long this goes on,” Goss said in the IowaWatch Connection radio report. But some loss in production is to be expected, he said. “We say, ‘well, the workers will get back to work, we’ll recapture, and be back up to where we were before.’ But you can’t work nothing today and expect to work twice as much tomorrow and make up for it.”
For the full report, listen to the podcast.