USDA Workers Back To Business As Usual
by Breanna Fuss, Reporter
October 17, 2013 8:43 PM
Four-hundred and fifty thousand federal workers went back to work Thursday after President Obama signed an agreement on spending and the debt ceiling passed by Congress. While the agreement is a temporary fix, it let 25 USDA workers in Sioux Falls go back to work.
Imagine being on a 16 day vacation you had no choice in taking and you couldn't go anywhere because you never knew when you would have to return to work. For the workers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that's exactly what they experienced, and they didn't exactly enjoy it.
Larry Olsen, County Executive Director for Minnehaha County FSA, said," I introduced myself, in case they forgot."
The Farm Service Agency or FSA is an agency a part of USDA and administers things like crop insurance, credit, environmental, and emergency assistance programs to farmers and producers.
"Every day is like a Sunday afternoon," Olsen said. "(You think) hopefully we will be back tomorrow, and it takes a little bit of a toll on you."
To add to the anxiety of being on furlough, Olsen said it's also harvest season.
"It's a fairly busy time of year with loan repayments, producers coming in to do acreage reports, producers wanting commodity loans, servicing of loans, all of that activity," Olsen explained.
Olsen said farmers also need bin measurements, and their annual Conservation Reserve Program or CRP payments. CRP is an incentive program that encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland into vegetative cover. Normally those checks come in the first part of October. Olsen said with it already being mid-month, he will make the payments a top priority, but it still might be a while before farmers get that check in the mail.
"That would probably be the one thing that we would like to get going on fairly soon" Olsen said. "There are a lot of people that depend on that annual CRP payment for their budget."
Despite the back log of work, Olsen stays optimistic and is grateful he's back at work.
"I'm hopeful that we will get back into our normal routine as quick as possible," Olsen said.
Olsen said they will get paid for their furloughs, which will be a relief to many after not getting their last paycheck because the pay period ended during the shutdown.
Olsen and many others at USDA aren't completely in the clear yet, they still have to worry about getting a new farm bill passed.