Shutdown Leaves Some Alabama Farmers in Limbo

Sunset on a dairy farm south of Fairhope, Alabama. (Source: Joseph Brooke, Flickr)

Tuesday marks one month for the partial federal government shutdown, and it’s not just federal workers feeling the pinch. Alabama farmers are also seeing its effects.

Nick McMichen, a fifth-generation farmer in Cherokee County, uses a federal loan program to help sell his cotton. The shutdown put the program on hold, leaving the cotton in a warehouse while he loses money. McMichen adds the government is not producing key farming data he depends on.

“We don’t have access to current information as to the market itself, so we’re not able to make decisions how to market our crops,” McMichen says.

Alabama Farmers Federation’s director of national legislative programs Mitt Walker says another hang up is with a federal program designed to help farmers recoup losses due to retaliatory tariffs. To apply, you have to have finished your harvest.

“And with the extremely wet weather we had this fall, some of our farmers were a little later getting their crops gathered than they would be in a typical year.”

The application deadline was mid-January, but Walker says the U.S. Department of Agriculture will extend it because of the shutdown. The department also opened some Farm Service Agency offices for three days through Tuesday to offer limited assistance.

Walker says if a farmer doesn’t deal directly with the federal government, the shutdown is more of an inconvenience. Nick McMichen says if the government doesn’t reopen in the next few weeks, it’ll really put farmers in a crunch as they plan this year’s crop.