Farm Service Agency employees back in office after shutdown

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Neill: ‘We are ready to get back to helping the local farming community’

The 35-day government shutdown that ended on Friday have the local agencies and the farming community getting themselves back on track.

Russ Neill, farm loan manager at Farm Service Agency, said the building located at 76 Main Street houses the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service, which are both federal, and the Barry County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is state.

“Locally, as far as the Farm Service Agency, we handle a variety of farm programs that are a safety net for farmers in the area,” he said. “We were shutdown and on furlough since the government shutdown, but Monday was our first day back to normal.”

Neill said the Natural Resources Conservation Service is funded differently, and that department had been working since the shutdown.

“All five of the employees at the Farm Service Agency were out of work, but we were called the other day, and two of us came back to work for three days,” he said. “We came back in primarily to process the payments that have come in, so that they could be processed to make sure individuals and families got proper 10-99 forms for tax purposes.”

Neill said the two employees that came back for three days rejoined their co-workers in furlough, until Monday morning, when everyone was able to get back to work.

“There are certain deadlines and time frames that have to be met when someone requests assistance for a program of some sort,” he said. “Those deadlines have be extended by the number of days the government was shutdown.”

Neill said as far as normal everyday work at the office, everyone is trying to get back into the mindset and wrap their heads around where they were at in the process of things more than a month ago.

“We are having to do some rescheduling of things and appointments that were missed over the last month,” he said. “We did receive notification that at least for our agency in the entire state, our state office in Columbia is processing our time and attendance reports, which is what we use to get past, on our behalf, to expedite our pay for the last 30 days.”

Neill said the last he heard that should be taken care of and payment received this week, and each family was in a different situation financially due to the government shutdown.

“Some families have two incomes and some probably had some savings, but it has affected each household,” he said.

Neill said, as far as the other agencies in the building, he isn’t sure exactly how they were being affected by the government shutdown.

“We are separate agencies, but we are sister agencies,” he said. “We all fall under the realm of USDA, I would say that there were probably times during the shutdown that those departments may have needed something that we would normally help with, and we were not able to do so.”

Neill said local employees and local farming producers were caught in the middle of the the government shutdown.

“We are ready to get back to work and do what normal is for us,” he said. “We are ready to get back to helping the local farming community.”

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