Payments to qualified farmers who have financially suffered because of the trade wars will continue in the new year despite the partial government shutdown, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA is among the government departments that have furloughed workers, closed offices and — in some cases — even stopped answering the phone. It said about 38 percent of its workforce is out, a ratio that could grow if the shutdown continues.
In an update posted over the weekend to its website, the USDA said payments to farmers whose production already has been certified under the program would continue past Tuesday.
But it didn’t say for how long, or whether new applications still are being reviewed. The deadline to apply for the aid — Jan. 15 — has not been pushed back.
The payments are part of a bailout package worth up to $12 billion. The aid is intended to help an agriculture industry that has suffered under retaliatory tariffs other nations imposed in response to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported aluminum and steel. Besides payments to farmers, the aid includes efforts to develop trade deals with new markets and government purchases of farm commodities to give to food banks.
The largest share of the payments is for soybean farmers, who can get up to $1.65 per bushel, up to a limit. Payments for corn are far less — a penny per bushel.