The government shutdown will never directly impact me. I just work at a state University trying to mind my own business and finish up some research. At least that’s what I have been thinking all week as the news headlines focus on D.C. and Congress’ inability to do their jobs.USDA Agriculture Government Shutdown

As it turns out there are many activities in the agriculture industry that have been affected by the shutdown. Many federal government employees have been placed on furlough and are not allowed to report to work or even correspond via email/phone. This includes the USDA-ARS lab I have been trying to collaborate with for a portion of my research.

The shutdown may not be as explosive as the national media outlets are attempting to portray, but it does add up quickly and affect the ability of our country to secure its food supply and execute many programs we have become accustomed to. Maybe this will be a good thing and result in a trimming of the budget by a good portion (wishful thinking). I’m not going to pick sides or place blame on a specific party. But I will say it’s a shame our guys and gals on Capitol Hill can’t complete the tasks they were elected to do.  Until they decide to grow up and come to a unified decision, maybe we should plan on how to adjust and make sure we continue working. Thank goodness things at the State levels appear to be in slightly better shape.

How does the shutdown affect agriculture?

Not all federal government employees have been furloughed. Employees considered to be essential for certain tasks are still reporting to work. According to APHIS, this includes “cattle fever tick surveillance and foreign animal disease diagnostics because these protect our borders against the entry of foreign diseases and care of animals in our custody because this is necessary to maintain research property.” Programs funded by user fees and trust funds are also still reporting to work because they are not funded by government appropriations.

Positions in APHIS that are placed on furlough include “assistance for the control of most plant and animal pests and diseases; research, except for the care of animals and plants (Ah, that includes my work); review or authorization of notifications or permits for the importation, interstate movement, or field release of genetically engineered organisms; review of petitions for nonregulated status related to genetically engineered crops; and most management, administrative and oversight functions, such as facility inspections and complaint investigations related to the Animal Welfare Act.”

Not being able to report to work is definitely rough for the federal employees affected. I guess I should be thankful I still have a job.

And let’s not forget that the 2008 Farm Bill extension expired on September 30. There are many food safety, farm insurance, and nutrition programs effected by this.

Government Shutdown impact on Food Safety

The description from APHIS got my wheels to turning and come to find out the government’s shutdown has a larger impact on the agriculture world than I first realized. It may only be several small things, but they all begin to add up, especially for our food supply.

For FSIS, on-site inspections and product testing still continues, but many of the market reporting activities by AMS are not exempt from the furloughs. The FDA has taken a huge hit in loss of employees (approximately 45%), this includes many inspection, enforcement, monitoring, and lab activities. According to Food Safety News, “the current shutdown also means that FDA does not have personnel available to investigate outbreaks and perform tracebacks through the supply chain on foods suspected of sickening people.”

More links on the shutdown and agriculture

Below are some additional links I’ve found to be helpful for reading up on how the shutdown affects agriculture

This post is far from being complete or comprehensive when it comes to describing the impact of the shutdown on agriculture and our country. If you have a perspective or links that add to the conversation, please contribute in the comments section below.