Good morning! Welcome to the January 22 edition of Farm News and Views. This is Bob Bragg.
If the cold weather and snow is getting you down, keep in mind that the mountain snow bank is receiving some good deposits that we can withdraw this summer. And, remember, spring will be here in eight weeks!
Thursday and Friday last week, the USDA brought back 2,500 workers, to temporarily reopen some Farm Service Agency offices that have been closed since the government shutdown started in December. Reportedly, Farm Service Agency offices will be open today in Cortez and Montecello, Utah, to help farmers and ranchers with existing loans and provide tax documents, but they won’t process new loan or trade aid applications, or certify 2018 production. FSA Office closures are threatening some farmers ability to buy land, and inputs needed to plant crops this spring.
As we pass the fourth week of the government shutdown, an estimated 800,000 government workers are either laid off or are working without having been paid.
Dr. Harwood Schaffer, Director of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, and Dr. Daryll Ray, Emeritus Professor, at the Institute of Agriculture, write Policy Pennings, A Weekly Agricultural Policy Column that’s published in MidAmerica Farmer Grower. In a recent column, they asked why we need a senate at all, considering that the leadership has stated that they won’t participate in the negotiations to end the government shutdown, nor will they act until the House writes legislation that is acceptable to the President. Schaffer and Ray also pointed out that shutdowns typically involve departmental appropriations or a decision to increase the debt ceiling, with the goal of forcing the other side to cry “Uncle” and capitulate to the demands being made. They believe that policies should be developed to prevent shutdowns that involve the bulk of the federal workforce, because the work they do is critical and shouldn’t be subject to a shutdown.
They suggest that the shutdowns should be shifted to only affect the legislative and executive branches of government and their direct staff. If either the President or Congress wants a shutdown to force the hand of the other, then limit the shutdown to the President and the executive staff of the White House, members of the Cabinet, and members of Congress and their staffs, but don’t include the kitchen staff, groundskeepers, cleaning staff and similar support workers. They also suggested that the shutdown should include salaries and travel, so the disputing parties feel the pain immediately, because if they can’t charge their travel home to office expenses or their campaign, they’’ll be less likely to go home for the weekend and be more likely to hammer out a compromise.
Now for some good news, Farm Credit System lenders predicted last Wednesday, that while some parts of the ag economy are under financial strain, most farmers and ranchers will be able to weather another year of low commodity prices. This network of bankers, who oversee about $260 billion dollars in loans, said they haven’t yet witnessed a spike in delinquencies or a flood of producers leaving the business, with the exception of dairy farmers, who have seen profits drop over the past four or five years due to a a world wide glut of milk, butter and cheese . It remains to be seen whether how fewer dairies wiil affect hay prices in the coming months.
A link to Farm News and Views dot net is on KSJD dot org. Also, a link to the Policy Pennings Column is on the Farm News and Views dot net blog.
Finally, think about this anonymous quote, Congress seems to favor a stable government, judging from the amount of stalling it does.
Until next week, I’m Bob Bragg