Exclusive: Vilsack concerned as shutdown gets closer

A government shutdown is looming and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says it hasn’t been easy to watch.

“You don’t want to take my blood pressure today, let’s put it that way.”

Secretary Vilsack tells Brownfield the people who administer USDA programs won’t be able to work and that’s a costly disruption for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“If there’s a farmer seeking help with operating expenses, the ability to close those loans in the conversation stage is at risk,” says Vilsack. “There might be farmers in and around the country anxious to get an Ag Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage or Conservation Reserve Program payment and those payments will also be delayed.”

Vilsack says USDA’s marketing and weekly sales reports will be delayed, along with the Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing.

And during a shutdown, Vilsack says the essential employees are defined as…”people who are specifically and directly focused on protecting life and property, for the most part, who are considered under the law as essential.”

The U.S. Senate has indicated it wants to move forward with a continuing resolution, but the House is still trying to advance spending bills. This week, the House debated an ag appropriations bill with proposed cuts to USDA spending by almost 20% and an amendment blocking any work on the Packers and Stockyards Act. And Vilsack says…

“It’s a question of: whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the packers, the big companies that have had a monopoly for an extended period of time or are you on the side of the livestock producers who need a fair price?”

Congress has through Saturday night to reach an agreement and fund the government.

Hear the full interview.