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Government Shutdown Puts a Freeze on NC Family Farms

Photo: NC farmers wait on the government to process much needed loans. Courtesy: RAFI-USA at Whippoorville Farms in Hickory, NC
Photo: NC farmers wait on the government to process much needed loans. Courtesy: RAFI-USA at Whippoorville Farms in Hickory, NC
October 4, 2013

SILER CITY, N.C. - As the national government remains "closed for business," North Carolina farmers are struggling to stay open for business in light of the shutdown. Dozens of farmers in the state have been approved for USDA direct farm operating loans, but those payments can't be made until federal employees can return to work.

According to Joe Schroeder, director of Farm Sustainability at the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)-USA, the needs of North Carolina farmers can't wait for the government.

"A late loan can be worse than a timely loan," he declared. "There's a pretty, small critical window when farmers need the cash. These loans are pretty critical and the timing of them is essential."

A farmers' Resource Rodeo was scheduled on Monday in Siler City, but RAFI has postponed the event because several of the presenters involved are furloughed government employees. According to the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, North Carolina is losing farmers faster than the average national rate.

Nationwide, more than 1400 farmers are waiting for loan payments because of the shutdown, and thousands more are waiting on loans in order to start farms. Schroeder said that could have a larger effect on the nation's food supply.

"It really could mean that they go out of business," he warned. "It's likely, because I don't know how long it's going to last. It could directly impact our food supply, our storage of these grains."

There are an estimated 50,000 farms in North Carolina. According to the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture exports totaled almost $4 billion in 2011 alone.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Bill De Armond, Public News Service - NC