With no solution in sight to a partial government shutdown which has denied scheduled paychecks to some 800,000 federal workers, and forced hundreds of thousands of those same employees to continue working without pay, President Donald Trump flies to New Orleans on Monday to address an agricultural group which is a very familiar with some of the impacts from the shuttering of certain federal agencies since the weekend before Christmas.
“Even though he’s not directly trying to hurt our farmers, this shutdown is going to hurt our farmers,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall at the 100th American Farm Bureau convention on Sunday.
Citing closed U.S. Department of Agriculture offices, delays on loans for farm operations, and other problems the shutdown has created for farmers, Duvall said it can’t go on much longer.
“I mean, the clock is ticking, we all know that when Spring gets here, everybody is going to need to be moving,” Duvall said.
“I know we’re shut down now, and you don’t like that, and I don’t like that,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) told the Farm Bureau.
“We got to do something about that – but honest to God, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Roberts, the retiring Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Other than the federal workers who have missed their paychecks in the dispute over President Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in money for his campaign pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border – farmers, and those involved in agriculture – may have felt the impact of the government funding impasse more than any group across the United States.
Asked at the Farm Bureau convention where his group stood on the President’s border wall, Duvall hedged.
“As far as Farm Bureau policy, we really don’t say what a secure border looks like,” said Duvall, who led the Georgia Farm Bureau for nine years. “If you’re looking for me to say, we support a wall or don’t support a wall – we support border security.”
The President’s speech to the Farm Bureau convention on Monday comes at a tricky time for agricultural interests in the United States, as farmers big and small have encountered lost markets and other economic troubles because of President Trump’s trade policies – and now, the shutdown.
The list of impacts on farm interests from the shutdown is long.
Peppered in every corner of the country, Farm Service Agency offices are shutdown, leaving farmers without familiar contacts and help. Loan applications by farmers are stuck in bureaucratic limbo, with no action possible until the shutdown ends.
Billions of dollars in farm bailout payments – authorized by President Trump after his trade policies resulted in lost export markets for American farmers – are on hold as well during the shutdown.
Disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Michael – for hard hit farmers in Florida and Georgia – remains in political limbo in the Congress during this dispute.
Important farm data reports aren’t being issued, which hampers decisions by farmers on what they’re going to plant, and what kind of subsidies will be available for them in 2019.
And the list goes on.
The President spent the weekend in Washington lobbing barbs on Twitter at Democrats, with no hint of any active negotiations to end the shutdown.
“I'm in the White House, waiting,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning, as snow hit the nation’s capital. “The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay.”
President Trump also again sent confusing signals about what he wants in the talks, saying in another tweet that Democrats had ruled out negotiations over DACA as part of the shutdown negotiations – even though he himself has said repeatedly in recent weeks that DACA should not be included, because the Supreme Court is likely to rule on it soon.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – a close ally of who in the last few days has urged the President to everything from declare a national emergency to cut a border wall deal that includes DACA – went on ‘Fox News Sunday’ and called for the President to allow the government to re-open, to spur new negotiations.
But – that’s an idea that the President has repeatedly rejected.
As for Democrats, a number from the House spent the weekend in Puerto Rico, which told some conservative commentators all they needed to know.
“New polling showing majority blames Trump/GOP for shutdown underscores how confident Dems are in this,” tweeted Fox News contributor Byron York.
“They can vacation in Hawaii, take the sun in San Juan, mid-shutdown, without worry of blame. So they’re doing it,” York wrote.
“Trump now owns the longest shutdown in history,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), as Democrats said repeatedly that Senate Republicans simply need to approve bills passed by Democrats in the House to end the shutdown.
“Your move Senate Republicans,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). “Call a vote. Override the veto. Show some independence.”
But for now, Republicans are refusing to vote on any funding bills approved by Democrats in the House over the last two weeks – as GOP leaders say nothing will go on the floor until there is an agreement with President Trump.
And as of now – there’s no deal.