Government Shutdown Puts Strain On Oklahoma Farmers

Wednesday, October 16th 2013, 5:32 pm
By: News On 6

Senate leaders announced Wednesday they've reached an agreement that would end the government shutdown raise the debt ceiling through the start of the new year. The plan will still have to be passed by the Senate and the House.

Oklahoma farmers are keeping a close eye on the talks in Washington. They've gone 16 days without farm reports and say it's been a guessing game since the shutdown began at the beginning of the month.

Farmers are always looking ahead to the next season to see what crops to plant. Without the farm reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that decision has become quite the challenge.

"We farm corn, grain sorghum, wheat, and soybeans," said Scotty Herriman.

Around this time of year, Herriman would normally be working his 1,800 acres of South Coffeyville land, but wet weather has put a crimp in those plans.

10/16/2013 Related Story: Senate Announces Deal To End Government Shutdown, Lift Debt Ceiling

Herriman said the encroaching winter has him worried, but it's the government shutdown that's on the mind of Oklahoma farmers.

"It won't affect us tomorrow or maybe next week, but it's going to affect us in the next year," Herriman said.

Here's why: the USDA puts out farm reports on Fridays. Those reports let farmers, like Herriman, know what the worldwide supply and demand will be for certain crops.

"If that report would have come out and said there is a greater need for one or more of these crops, then we would have probably directed our growing next year, lean it more to corn and soybeans," Herriman said.

10/14/2013 Related Story: Okie Farmers, Ranchers Feel Government Shutdown Pinch

But the USDA is closed, which means no reports and Herriman is left to figure it out for himself.

"Well, it would just be a guess of what you need to be planting and to make it for next year."

Herriman said another problem farmers are facing because of the shutdown is delays for those who need to do conservation work on their land--drainage ditches, ponds and such. The federal government workers who would survey their land and help plan those projects aren't on the job.

It just means more uncertainty, said Jody Campiche, an ag policy specialist at OSU. She said the question marks over what's going to be in the new Farm Bill, as well as the lack of information from the federal government, makes it a stressful time for farmers.

"With this and the Farm Bill expiration and not having a Farm Bill in place, and this government shutdown it just adds to that," Campiche said.

In addition to the lack of reports, all USDA Farm Service Agencies are closed. Those agencies provide loans and help farmers manage the sales of their crops.