WASHINGTON, DC -- During a meeting via conference call led by USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey and other Department officials, USA Rice learned that all Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will be reopening later this week. In an effort to help farmers who have been caught in the political crossfire surrounding the partial government shutdown, FSA is making every effort to provide much needed assistance by reopening FSA offices to carry out several programs important to rice, even with the shutdown still ongoing.
Beginning on Thursday, January 24, all FSA offices will be open for business providing limited functions, in addition to those offices that have been open the past three business days. Only those offices that have been open will also be open for business tomorrow, January 23. The following two weeks, the weeks of January 28 and February 4, FSA will operate five days per week. The ensuing weeks would be three-day work weeks (Tuesday – Thursday). However, this is all contingent on the duration of the shutdown.
A few services that will be provided by FSA offices include: administration of the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs, including making payments on backlogged rice PLC payments; processing of new direct and guaranteed operating loans; issuance of warehouse receipts for existing Marketing Assistance Loans; processing of new Marketing Assistance Loans; and acceptance of applications/process payments for the Market Facilitation Program (signup deadline also delayed until February 14).
When USA Rice inquired about the past-due rice PLC payments that were delayed due to apportionment issues, Northey said those payments are a high priority, and that USDA is aware that those PLC payments are one of the first things that need to be done once offices reopen.
“USA Rice is thankful that FSA offices will be reopening so our farmers can complete some of their business leading up to planting season, as well as the fact that rice PLC payments will be a high priority on these offices’ to-do lists once they reopen,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs. “We appreciate the work of Secretary Perdue and Under Secretary Northey for making this happen during a time of critical need.”
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