Editor's Note: While the shutdown was averted, the story below does show the potential impact on the ag agency in case it does occur.
We are fast approaching the deadline of the current continuing resolution that is funding the government. Congress has until Midnight to work out some sort of deal to keep from shutting down the government.
USDA will be impacted by a shutdown with many of its programs and services being closed. However some services that have been deemed essential will continue operation. Among those are inspectors at meat and poultry processing facilities, Forest Service law enforcement and firefighting efforts, and inspection of import and exports.
"As a general proposition, employees that are basically paid for through a series of fees the Anti-Deficiency Act provides the opportunity to continue working," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "To the extent that folks are engaged in activities that are significant to the safety of people or property they too will be accepted employees and allowed to continue their efforts."
Vilsack says that included in that would be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women, Infants and Children, and the Child Nutrition program. He says they will have funding that will allow them to continue for a period of time. Funds are available to keep SNAP in operation until May and WIC through June.
The activities of the Farm Service Agency and Rural Development would also be shutdown according to Vilsack.
"That's the sad reality of a shutdown," Vilsack said. "Important work, perhaps not absolutely vital to safety, but important work will not be able to be done in a timely basis. Not to say farmers won't eventually get their loans, but will obviously will impact a lot of their decisions relative to planting."