Is the government shutdown affecting your business? Some people would probably say “NO!” with some ridiculous line like, “what do we need those non-essential employees for anyways?”
But if you are a farmer or work in agriculture, the answer would be yes and those employees are indeed very essential. The shutdown not only closes local, state and national USDA & NRCS offices, but will also hurt commodity export markets. Agriculture is one of the few industries that provide our country with a trade surplus, and the damage is already taking place.
The South Dakota Corn Growers have fully supported the Panama Free Trade Agreements, which took nearly two years to complete, but with government shut down, United States trade officials are furloughed and implementation has been frozen. In the agreement, grain buyers need to register annually in order to schedule the duty-free purchases. But without government trade representatives at work no one is available to resolve this and other issues that have emerged from local buyers. Until U.S. trade representatives become available and these issues are resolved, the agreement will not take place.
Striking out on this agreement is a big deal. The Panama FTA represents a 300,000 ton corn quota market, which required extensive time, negotiations and investments. But all could be lost as farmers are in the midst of harvesting a potential record corn crop.
While Congress continues to blame each other over the shutdown, real market opportunities are being missed after years of time spent and money invested. It’s tough to gauge just exactly how much agriculture will be affected by the shutdown, but fading opportunities like this will most definitely have a negative trickle down effect to America’s rural economies.