Government shutdown felt in Clay County
Despite the distance between our nation’s capital and Iowa, the partial federal government shutdown is being felt in northwest Iowa. The shutdown is currently affecting nine federal departments — Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and the Treasury.
While some services in Spencer, such as the Social Security Office and UDMO have been unaffected by the shutdown, the Clay County USDA Farm Service Agency office and its employees have not been as lucky. All USDA county FSA offices have been shuttered as of Dec. 28, with 61 percent of USDA employees currently exempted from the shutdown.
“We are not in the office at this time, we are in furlough due to the lack of federal government funding,” the Clay County USDA FSA’s voicemail states.
“There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “... During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top notch service people expect.”
In addition, the USDA has also closed recreation sites across the U.S. National Forest System, new timber sales, most forest fuels reduction activities in and around communities, NASS statistics and “other economic and statistical reports and projections.”
“We’re missing the second round of the tariff payments,” said Patrick White, AA Commodities and Investments owner. “They’re not going to be able to get out their January 11 crop report, that’ll affect things. The USDA won’t be able to give an update on yield, they won’t give an update on carryout, they’re just gonna skip over and hope it’s open in February.
He continued, “The big thing is just the reporting with Chinese sales. If we don’t know what they’re buying and it can’t be confirmed by the U.S. government, it’s really just shady on what’s actually going to happen. They could come out here and completely buy us out and we wouldn’t know it, because the USDA can’t confirm it. ... It (the market) doesn’t go up a whole lot, doesn’t go down a whole lot, we’re all just sitting here. Hopefully we can get something done here. (It’s) $5 billion for the wall, that’s why we’re held up. But it’s not a money thing, it’s a political thing.”
The shutdown began on Dec. 22 after the Senate adjourned, unable to agree on spending. Funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall has become the key issue since approximately one fourth of the government was forced to close. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, issued a statement on the government stalemate, supporting the president’s request for the wall’s funding.
“We shouldn’t have to choose between keeping the government open and protecting our national borders,” Grassley said. “There’s no question that dangerous individuals, from drug traffickers to violent criminals, attempt to cross the border illegally every day. I support President Trump’s request for $5 billion to fund border security. Additional wall on specific parts of the border like we’ve already seen in Yuma, El Paso and San Diego would go a long way in stopping those dangerous individuals from entering the country.
He continued, “... I hope Democrats come to the table and work with congressional Republicans and President Trump to arrive at a reasonable resolution. There’s no reason we can’t keep the government open and protect our nation’s borders. In the meantime, Iowans should know that most of the federal government remains open. The military continues to defend our national security. The postal service continues to function. ... My office will work with the administration to determine how the partial shutdown might affect Iowans, and I’ll keep working with my colleagues to come to a resolution as soon as possible.”
In county government, only the county engineer’s office expected to experience any impact from the continued closure.
“If we were in a different time of the year it might be more impactful,” Clay County Engineer Bill Rabenberg said. “We’ve got some future federal projects but they’re involved in the swap, so I’m not sure how a shutdown would affect those. There’s supposed to be a trade, one to one, dollar for dollar to the state using the state funding. It might affect more of the state than us. We’re working with FEMA from the spring flood event. Those folks will be temporarily on furlough until the government resumes, so we might have some delays in funding reimbursement.”