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Shutdown comes at a ‘tough time’ to be an American farmer

President Trump promoted his trade policies Monday at the American Farm Bureau Federation. But the government shutdown has hurt farmers seeking loans needed for upcoming crop seasons, and certain provisions in the newly signed Farm Bill cannot be administered until USDA offices reopen. Farm Aid’s Joe Schroeder joins John Yang to discuss how the shutdown has come at a "tough time to be a farmer."

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The impact of the government shutdown has been felt by many people and communities across the country.

    As John Yang reports, American farmers have felt pressures from multiple angles.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, today, the president told the American Farm Bureau Federation's convention in New Orleans that he is on their side.

    But it's an especially difficult time for some farmers. Already, many are coping with the fallout from trade showdowns with China. And with so many USDA offices around the country closed, farmers can't get the loans they may need to pay bills or mortgages or the money they need to plant crops for the season ahead. And they aren't getting the critical data they use to plan ahead.

    Joe Schroeder is an advocate for farmers in need. He works for Farm Aid. That's the group founded by Willie Nelson that supports family farmers. It may be best known for putting on benefit concerts.

    Joe Schroeder, thanks so much for joining us.

    We touched on some of the ways in the introduction, but help us understand the many ways that farmers are affected by this government shutdown.

  • Joe Schroeder:

    Yes.

    So, USDA is essentially the government entity that's set up to deal with all of the issues that farmers have that the private sector doesn't manage well, operating loans for grain farmers, for diary farmers in particular. Those folks are going to be significantly impacted, as well as a host of other farmers accessing other USDA programs like insurance and other things like that.

  • John Yang:

    Can you share with us some of the stories you have been hearing from farmers who may be having difficulty getting their loans processed?

  • Joe Schroeder:

    Most farmers who call me with some issue are affected by the shutdown.

    The most obvious example are folks who are trying to get money for next year. This is the window of time when you have to plan ahead and make your investments. This is when you need your operating loans to be processed.

    So, one interruption in this specific window for a lot of the commodity farmers, a lot of the Midwestern farmers is a significant setback and effect. It makes me worry at night.

  • John Yang:

    Is there a particular incident or a particular case that sticks out in your mind?

  • Joe Schroeder:

    I talked to a woman in her 90s who is being foreclosed on who has a farm that's over 200 years old.

    Her sons both work on the farm. Typically, in a situation like this, we would work with the family to prepare and apply for farm ownership loans. These — in this case, these two sons were eligible, could have bought the mother out, could have held on to that farm and seen another day.

    It's likely the case that that foreclosure process will happen faster than the opportunity for them to apply or be processed and granted a loan. So, that's one example. And I have many others from other farmers.

    Anyone who needs money — and there are a lot of folks during the wintertime who do to operate the next year — are sort of scratching their heads and trying to understand when they might be able to process them, hear back from FSA, whether or not they can hold on in the interim.

  • John Yang:

    And this is coming at a time when farmers have already been facing stressful times because of the trade wars and that sort of thing.

  • Joe Schroeder:

    The farm economy has had a pretty rough go in the last five or six years.

    The context is that it's a tough time to be a farmer, particularly dairy, particularly grain farmers. And it's not because of a few decisions or policies. But the most recent policies and decisions we're hearing about are not helping.

  • John Yang:

    One more strain on family farmers.

    Joe Schroeder of Farm Aid, thank you very much.

  • Joe Schroeder:

    Thank you.

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