The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it is temporarily recalling about 2,500 federal employees tasked with helping America’s farmers and ranchers, part of its effort to insulate the nation’s agriculture industry from the impact of the partial government shutdown.
The Agriculture Department will for at least three days reopen about 1,000 of the 2,100 Farm Service Agency offices across the country. The recalled employees will return to work helping farmers process USDA farm payments and federal farm loans, among other tasks, according to a news release.
Farm Service Agency workers will return to work on Thursday, Friday and Tuesday, according to the news release. They will also help farmers secure the 1099 tax documents borrowers need to file to the IRS. Farmers with loan deadlines with the Agriculture Department are not required to make payments until after the end of the shutdown, according to a USDA news release.
The federal employees will be unpaid while returning to work, part of 800,000 federal employees who are either working without pay or furloughed during the federal government shutdown that started Dec. 22. Congress has expressed its intent to pay the employees back after the funding lapse is ended, but the missed paychecks are causing widespread financial hardship.
The employee recall is likely to partially relieve pressure on the White House from rural lawmakers, particularly those in Republican-controlled states, who have expressed alarm about the impact of the government shutdown on farmers.
It is also likely to amplify criticism that the administration is arbitrarily choosing winners and losers in the shutdown, as officials have recalled federal workers to issue tax refunds, oversee flight safety and inspect the nation’s food and drug supply.
The longest-ever government shutdown has entered its 26th day with no end in sight, as lawmakers are still at an impasse over President Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “ . . . We continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”
The administration has taken other measures to help farmers during the shutdown, including extending the deadline for applying for federal bailout payments intended to help farmers weather Trump’s trade war with China.
Trump also traveled to New Orleans on Monday to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention, at which he asked the farmers for patience in the shutdown.
“The USDA is doing everything in its power to help farmers deal with the ongoing shutdown,” Trump told the crowd, according to a White House transcript. “We thank you for your support and patriotism.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said Trump spoke in New Orleans on Tuesday. He spoke Monday.