(Radio Iowa) An Iowan who had a leadership role in the Farm Service Agency a decade ago says a federal government shutdown would delay Conservation Reserve Program payments, which are issued in October. President Obama appointed John Whitaker as Iowa State Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency in 2009 and Whitaker was in that role when the federal government shutdown for 16 days in October of 2013.
“CRP payments and other payments are due October 1. The more that we delay making those payments, the more likely it is the federal government will have to pay interest on those payments,” Whitaker says. “That adds to our cost, the cost of doing government.” If Conservation Reserve Program or CRP payments aren’t made by October 31st, the federal government is required to pay a penalty and add interest onto those checks. Whitaker says even a week-long federal government shutdown in October would create issues with CRP payments.
“It’s going to be more and more difficult to get them all certified and all through the system and the staff is stressed because they know the cost of not getting the payment made and they also know those producers are waiting on those payments,” Whitaker says. “They expect that payment to be paid in early October, not the end of October or in November or later than that.” Whitaker made his comments during an online news conference organized by the Iowa Democratic Party. Two years ago, the federal government paid 382 million dollars on CRP contracts that keep the land out of corn and soybean production for up to 15 years. Farm Service Agency offices will be closed if congress does not pass a spending plan for the next federal fiscal year, which begins Sunday. Whitaker says that means farmers will not be able to submit required reports to the USDA about cover crops that are being planted this fall.
“You know, Iowa’s agricultural areas are heavily dependent on the USDA and USDA programs,” Whitaker says. Whitaker served on the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors for 10 years. Whitaker served seven years in the Iowa House before he was appointed to lead the Farm Service Agency operations in Iowa.