Shutdown Hurting Rural America

The ongoing government shutdown, the result of an increasingly partisan and intransigent Congress, is hurting rural Americans at a very vulnerable period, some farm officials are saying, cutting into critical supports right as the current farm bill expires.
For the past few years, Americans have watched as partisan bickering increasingly paralyzes Congress. This increased partisanship has been most visible as Congress debates normally inoffensive and noncontroversial farm legislation. For years, the farm bill has been passed, if not speedily, by Congress. While multiple farm bills have been passed after their September 30 deadline, 2012 was the first time that a farm bill begun in one Congress had to be continued by the subsequent Congress.
The same partisan feuding that paralyzed the farm bill has now led to a government shutdown (with House Republicans refusing to fund the federal government without healthcare concessions from Senate Democrats).
As the shutdown stretches into its second week, farmers and rural Americans across the country are beginning the feel the pinch from a lack of government services. The US Department of Agriculture’s website has been shut down and information on funding opportunities, crop prices, and other research tools contained on that website are inaccessible for farmers. Agencies like the Office of Rural Development (which deals with, among other things, utility services in rural areas) are closed, the Food and Drug Administration has suspended many routine inspections, and many USDA loan operations have been shut down.
It is currently unclear how long the shutdown will continue.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer