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More Fallout From Shutdown‏

October 3, 2013 - 12:20am
By JOSIE MUSICO
A-J MEDIA


Cuts to commodity loans and unavailability of crop data are among the
concerns of farmers amid the approaching harvest and a government
shutdown.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency announced
Monday, Sept. 30, a 5.1 percent reduction in commodity loans and a
suspension of loan-making for all commodities.

Wally Darneille, president and CEO of the Plains Cotton Cooperative
Association, described the announcement as surprising and upsetting.

"It's a source of financing we are able to count on," he said. "When they
announce at the last minute that this is not available, we have to go
find another source of financing."

The cotton association responded by securing that alternative-source
financing, Darneille said.

"We're not going to apply the sequestering to our members," he said.

A-J Media was unable to reach USDA for a response because ‹ like many
other government agencies affected by the shutdown ‹ it is essentially
closed.

Darneille also expressed concern a disruption from the cotton flow caused
by loan cuts could affect the crop's reputation in the global market. The
early harvest-season timing of the announcement is also unfortunate, he
added.

"It's terribly disruptive ‹ the crop has already begun," he said.

Other industry representatives have reported frustration from seeking
answers that aren't found where they were before. For example, USDA
reports that describe cotton quality are now unavailable.

"It's going to have an impact on our producers as far as marketing
cotton," said Mary Jane Buerkle, communications director for Plains
Cotton Growers.

USDA's cotton-classing office is continuing its operations.

Kenny Day, a spokesman from the Lubbock branch, said the program is
funded through service fees rather than tax dollars, likely contributing
to the office remaining open.

"We're business as usual as it stands right now, and we hope it stays
that way," he said.

Buerkle agreed that an inability to class cotton ‹ one of the main steps
in its production ‹ could be catastrophic.

"If any lapse in service does occur, it would create an effect through
the rest of the cotton chain," she said. "If we can't class our cotton,
everything pretty much stops."

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples issued an open letter to Gov. Rick
Perry stating concern the shutdown could hinder funding for various
nutrition-assistance and agriculture-protection programs the state
administers through the federal government. Projects with the Community
Development Block Grant Program also could be hindered without approval
from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the letter
continues.

"TDA is prepared to continue federally funded operations to the extent
that federal funds are anticipated to be forthcoming," Staples said in
the letter.

Government agencies without operation also means government employees are
going without a paycheck.

Darren Hudson, director of Texas Tech's Cotton Economics Research
Institute, said lost wages from those workers will probably not be enough
to significantly impact the local economy. He continued that although the
government classified operations as essential and nonessential before
determining which ones to halt, few jobs were completely unnecessary.

"These services do have value to people, and this will cause a
disruption," he said. "The effects of that disruption will magnify the
longer this takes."

For example, displaced government workers could accept jobs with private
companies rather than wait indefinitely to return to work. And if their
former jobs were highly skilled, creating a new workforce while catching
up on an accumulated workload post-shutdown could be disastrous for
government agencies.

Hudson added there's also a human element that can't be easily quantified
‹ most of the displaced workers have bills to pay and families to care
for.

"Their lives get impacted," he said.

josephine.musico@lubbockonline.com € 766-8796

www.facebook.com/pages/Region-Agriculture

Follow Josie on Twitter @josiemusico

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