Government shutdown endangers aid to farmers


Payments from the federal government to farmers hardest hit by America's ongoing trade dispute with China are in danger of drying up amid the partial government shutdown, which stretched into its seventh day on Friday.

The Associated Press reports that Department of Agriculture (USDA) payments to U.S. farmers hit by Chinese tariffs on soybeans, sorghum and other crops were only scheduled to last through one week of a federal shutdown, and are set to discontinue within days if President Trump and Congress are unable to reach a deal on a spending bill.

The USDA payments, along with farm loans and disaster assistance programs, are set to be put on hold starting next week unless funding is authorized, the AP reports.

The agency has appropriated more than $9 billion to pay out to farmers who are unable to certify production, of which payments began in September. The deadline to sign up for another round of payments from USDA is Jan. 15.

Other USDA programs including the federal food stamp system are guaranteed to be funded through January.

Trump and congressional Democrats remain in a stalemate over funding for his planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with no immediate resolution in sight.

The president has blamed Democrats for not accepting White House demands for billions of dollars' worth of funding for the wall, despite his own previous comments earlier this month when he said he would take the "mantle" of a shutdown over the wall.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told Democratic leaders during a meeting in the White House before the shutdown began last Saturday. “I will take the mantle. I will shut it down, I’m not going to blame you for it.”

The president has since sought to pin blame over the shutdown on Democrats, accusing them of obstructionism by opposing a House-passed bill that included $5 billion in funding for his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, expressed disbelief last week after Trump reversed course and signaled he would not support a Senate-passed bill that did not include the wall funding after being urged by House Republicans to dig in on his border funding demands.

Washington and Beijing have been embroiled in a trade dispute for months, though Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a one-month truce on future tariff action last month, which is set to begin in January.

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