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Government Shutdown Affects Montana Farms and Ranches

PHOTO: Members of Montana Farmers Union met with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., last month to discuss agricultural priorities. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith

PHOTO: Members of Montana Farmers Union met with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., last month to discuss agricultural priorities. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
October 3, 2013

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Montana farmers and ranchers are feeling the effects of the federal government shutdown. And soon, banks will feel it, too, as farmers are unable to make payments because program checks have not arrived as expected. Montana Farmers Union president Alan Merrill said farm loans, disaster assistance, conservation program payments and beginning farmer help all have been put on hold.

"When they delay things like that, it takes at least three weeks to a month to restart up the whole big engine again of the government to get those payments out," Merrill said.

All state and county Farm Service Agency offices are closed, and the website has been frozen. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, which handles some farm payment programs, is mostly closed.

Not only is crop insurance underwriting not available, but crop insurance payments are in limbo, Merrill said.

"All right now, that is serious!" he exclaimed. "It's going to be all delayed payments for the 2013 crops, whether you had hail - which we did - too much rain, too much drought. They're on delay right now."

The National Farmers Union has also confirmed that trade promotion programs have ceased.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT