Farmers across the region who’ve seen crops and livestock wiped out in recent tornadoes, floods and blizzards can’t get official damage assessments done as Farm Service Agency offices are closed by the federal government shutdown. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack could have those FSA workers declared “essential” and call them back. Iowa
Senator Chuck Grassley says he hasn’t asked Vilsack to take that action, but he may. Grassley says, “It is an area that might be open for that possibility of callback.” In recent weeks, massive flooding hit Colorado, while a blizzard earlier this month killed thousands of head of livestock in Nebraska and South Dakota.
That same storm system spun off at least six tornadoes in Iowa on October 4th which flattened many crops in the state’s northwestern corner. With the government shutdown starting its third week today), Grassley says it may be time to see these disaster assessment teams called back to work. “It’s probably something that ought to be considered,” Grassley says. “Whether we’ve heard from the FSA, the problems, I’m not sure I can tell you right now, being shortstaffed as we are in my D.C. office.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already made such a move, to recall essential personnel in the face of disaster. Grassley says, “I know there is government agencies that have called people back, particularly FEMA in regards to the Colorado situation as well.” FEMA also called workers in recently as Hurricane Karen approached the Gulf Coast, though the storm ended up shifting course.
Matt Paul, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released this statement: “Our hearts go out to those farmers and ranchers who have suffered devastating losses. It will be our top priority to work with those producers as soon as the government shutdown is over. We encourage Congress to end the government shutdown and pass a farm bill as quickly as possible so that USDA can get back to serving the farmers and ranchers who depend on us.”