Farmers worry about their aid payments in shutdown

Just when US farmers thought they were catching a break with a second round of federal aid, now there's concern the impasse in Washington could hamper payments.

Just when U.S. farmers thought they were catching a break with a second round of federal aid, now there's concern the impasse in Washington could hamper payments.

After crop prices tumbled amid the U.S.-China trade war, the Trump administration made good on its promise to help farmers by approving the second-round payments this month. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said the total aid could reach as much as $12 billion, with soybean growers taking the biggest share. But the partial U.S. government shutdown is raising questions about delays for the plan, called the market facilitation program.

On Dec. 21, the USDA said in a statement that the aid would continue during the first week of a shutdown, but payments would halt after that for producers who hadn't certified production. The deadline to apply for the program is Jan. 15.

The House of Representatives won't schedule any votes for Friday, a Republican aide said, which means the shutdown will continue at least into this weekend.

"There's certainly concern" among farmers about whether they're "going to get their payments," said Brian Hoops, senior market analyst at Midwest Market Solutions in Springfield, Missouri. A lack of payments could eventually force farmers to sell crops to generate cash flow, Hoops said.

Phone calls and emails sent to the USDA's press office seeking comment weren't answered. The agency said Dec. 21 that most administrative and oversight functions would be halted during the government closure.

This article was written by Lydia Mulvany, a reporter for Bloomberg.