Tariff aid payments under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) could face another delay as the federal government inches ever closer to a partial shutdown.
Congress and the president face a Friday deadline to pass a funding bill that covers nine Cabinet departments, including USDA. If not, some 380,000 federal workers will be furloughed. That may include Farm Service Agency employees needed to process MFP payments, according to USDA under secretary Bill Northey.
“There’s several different pieces. Some of it is here internal to FSA, and it depends who we are able to keep on as we check our different funding pools and what folks can still be around for that process,” Northey explained to AgriTalk Radio host Chip Flory. “Then it goes through Treasury and a few other places, and I’m not sure of their plans or their ability to keep things moving.
"Payments will be made, but timing could be disrupted.”
Northey said the payments will take a week to two weeks to process, and that initial payments will go out before the end of the year if there is not a government shutdown.
This is the second round of MFP payments, released to ease the impact of the tariff war with China that negatively impacted commodity prices through much of 2018. The first round, announced in August of this year, only covered the 50% of actual 2018 production in the covered crops. The second round payments keep the same rates for the remaining 50% of 2018 production.
Producers who have already applied for the first round of payments do not need to reapply for the second round. The deadline for application is Jan. 15, 2019, though 2018 production can be certified through May 1, 2019.
An announcement on the second round of MFP payments was expected in early December, but was delayed as the Office of Management and Budget reportedly questioned the need for the payments as trade tensions with China have eased somewhat. Ultimately, Northey said President Trump pushed for the continued payments.
“Certainly, the President was the decision maker, and he was the one that said we’ve got to stand with our farmers like we promised we were going to do,” Northey said. “Our farmers have been taking it on the chin, and this doesn’t make everybody whole by any means.”
Listen to the entire AgriTalk interview with USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey in the player below: