USDA recalls workers for three days to help with farm loans, taxes

by Reuters
Wednesday, 16 January 2019 17:06 GMT

(Updates with details, quote from USDA secretary background)

WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will reopen about 980 Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices for three days starting on Thursday to help process farm loans and tax documents during the partial government shutdown, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

About 2,500 FSA employees who have been furloughed by the partial shutdown that began Dec. 22 have been called back to work without pay, the department said. It said the offices would be open Thursday, Friday and Tuesday before closing again.

"Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America's agricultural producers," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. "We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans."

Perdue said 983 of the agency's 2,124 office would be open. At least one office will be open in each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The shutdown, now in its fourth week, has rippled across the already struggling U.S. farm economy. The USDA canceled the release of a slew of key reports last week.

In addition to the lack of clarity about supply and demand for their goods, farmers also have been unable to receive aid payments from the Trump administration's $12 billion plan to ease the pain caused by the trade war. (Reporting by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann in Washington and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; Editing by Bill Trott)

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