Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to let the Senate vote on House-passed legislation that would end the partial federal government shutdown. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of the major agencies affected by the shutdown. The proposed agriculture funding bill, which is included in the House’s legislation, already passed the Senate with unanimous support in committee and by a vote of 92-6 on the floor.
“Thousands of family farmers and rural Americans will pay the price for President Trump and congressional Republicans’ stubborn refusal to accept reality and say ‘yes’ to a reasonable deal to reopen the government.
“Already, USDA has shuttered local farm service offices that are critical to helping family farmers as they prepare for spring planting. As the agricultural industry suffers from retaliatory tariffs, many farmers have been relying on USDA as a lender of last resort. Left without USDA assistance, these farmers will struggle to pay bills, stay afloat, and prepare for the new planting season if the shutdown drags on.
At a time when farmers and ranchers across America are looking to the federal government for guidance on a brand-new farm bill, Farm Service Agency staff aren’t available to answer their questions or help sign producers up for new programs. This is the worst time for a shutdown – when producers are facing massive uncertainty ahead of the planting season, and in need of federal help and guidance more than ever.
“Additionally, thousands of rural communities across the country rely on USDA’s rural development programs for loans and grants that help with affordable housing, utilities, small business growth, and more. The longer this shutdown continues, the more rural economies will suffer.
“President Trump is rejecting this bipartisan bill and inflicting needless and intentional harm on farmers and rural communities so he doesn’t look ‘foolish’ to his supporters. That’s the President’s own explanation. We have come to expect this president to put his own ego and self-aggrandizement ahead of the well-being of the American people and the good of the country, but there is absolutely no reason Republican Senators should follow his lead. Let’s accept the House’s common-sense proposal to pass bipartisan bills, buy another month for negotiations about Homeland Security, and end this job-killing shutdown.”