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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Farm Service Agency Employees Return To Work Without A Paycheck

Hay field. File photo.
Hay field. File photo.

The U.S Department of Agriculture reopens all of its Farm Service Agency offices starting Thursday, Jan. 24. Nearly 10,000 FSA employees will come back to work, but won’t get paid until after the shutdown ends.

Most FSA centers have been closed since the second week of the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The reopening is a huge relief to Alan Merrill, President of the Great Falls-based Montana Farmers Union.

“People were wondering very much what they were going to do for money.”

Farm Service Agencies serve agriculture in many different ways, including tax assistance, drought payments and loan programs for beginning farmers, just to name a few.

“If you are a younger farmer and getting direct loans, or even operating loans through the government to start maybe a new farming operation or take over mom and dad’s farming operation -- those funds were no more," Merrill says. "When the government was shut down and the government workers weren’t getting paid, younger farmers and ranchers weren’t getting paid either. So people were wondering very much what they were going to do for money.” 

Farm Service Agency offices reopen this Thursday and keep regular hours, Monday through Friday for the next two weeks.

If the shutdown lasts longer than that, FSA offices will only be open three days a week.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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