NC farmers pressure lawmakers on partial government shutdown

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina farmers fear the government shutdown will harm an already hurting industry.

Many growers rely on programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are unable to get that assistance until their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices reopen.

Disaster relief payments from the USDA are delayed due to the shutdown, so some farmers who lost much of their crops to Hurricanes Florence and Michael have uncertainty about the upcoming season. 
The fall storms caused more than $1 billion in crop damage.

“It was a horrendous year. Farmers are trying to make plans for next year, and this is just another brick in the wagon that they’re trying to have to drag along behind them,” said Peter Daniel with the North Carolina Farm Bureau. “It makes life more difficult.”

Representatives from the Farm Bureau went to Washington, D.C. on Thursday for the swearing-in of Congress.

“We took this message very loudly and very directly to our North Carolina delegation yesterday, that this will quickly be a crisis situation for our farmers in North Carolina if the government does not open back up,” Daniel said.

Assessments and reports on crops and losses which normally take place through the FSA are not happening. Federal payments promised to help with lost sales resulting from trade disputes with China are also on hold.

Farmers looking for federal loans as they try to keep growing are unable to get those at this time.

“It’s very frustrating, especially on the heels of a terrible crop year, where a lot of guys are stressed about that,” farmer Shawn Harding said.

“And now, what am I going to do next year? ‘Let me go to the FSA office and get some answers.’ Oh, wait a minute, they’re closed.”

He made a trip from his farm in Beaufort County to Raleigh to ask the Farm Bureau for help.

Harding said he feels lost right now, and that there are a lot of others like him.

“I know farmers, and we’re going to figure out a way to farm. We’re going to figure out a way to farm, and hopefully as many of us that can are going to pull together and figure this thing out, but it’s not an easy fix right now,” he said.

Several vendors at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh said Friday that as smaller growers dealing primarily in produce, they are not facing any problems due to the government shutdown. Some get items from larger suppliers who work with the USDA.

One grower said the main impact to his business is if government employees who are not getting paid decide to stay home instead of spending money at the farmers market.

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