WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Federal employees may be the hardest hit by the government shutdown, but there is growing concern among Colorado farmers. Many of them were able to access federal loans in the month of January, but if the shutdown persists, the much-needed aid will be delayed.
“Our income comes in a period of three months, right?” Dave Eckhardt of Eckhardt Farms said. “The last few months of the fall and after that, if you didn’t have enough to make any money, you need money to live on so those people that are borrowing money from the FSA, from the federal government, they need access to funds and the shutdown could possibly be a situation where they aren’t able to get those.”
Eckhardt is a fourth generation farmer and President of the Colorado Growers Association. He is working on setting up the farm for a fifth generation, but says things aren’t getting easier. The shutdown isn’t helping.
“You know, the last four or five years have been pretty miserable in ag (agriculture), so you hope for a turnaround.”
Eckhardt Farms is fortunate enough it doesn’t have to rely on federal assistance, but he knows others in Colorado do. He says many just don’t want to talk about it.
“You hope from an organizational standpoint we can help them in anyway we can to get through this shutdown. It’s difficult to know everybody’s business not everybody wants to share, you know?”
Eckhardts current concern is with the USDA reporting, or lack thereof. The shutdown means the USDA is not compiling the data which farmers, like Eckhardt, use to determine what to plant for the upcoming season.
“If there’s going to be a big shift to corn because soybeans have been hit so hard by the tariff situation, obviously more acres in a depressed market doesn’t mean better prices, so you start to look for other crops whether it’s dry beans in our situation or sugar beets or more onions.”
Planting season is just three months away.
“If this thing creeps into March, obviously all of us will have a little more of an effect felt.”
While he doesn’t anticipate a huge impact for consumers, he says the longer the shutdown, the larger the impact for farmers who are already struggling.
“You know, growers are concerned. Every year that you farm and don’t make money, you farm equity away and as the farming population ages, you’ve got people that probably should be retiring and moving to Arizona or enjoying themselves, but they continue to farm and you worry about everybody finding themselves in a position where you hang on too long.”
The USDA announced Wednesday that it would be opening many FSA offices for three days to help farmers with existing loans and other limited services: Jan. 17, 18, and Jan. 22.