USDA extends deadline for farmers hurt by tariffs to seek aid

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday extended the deadline for farmers to apply for aid intended to help offset the economic losses caused by tariffs.

The agency extended the Jan. 15 due to the partial government shutdown, saying farmers cannot currently complete the aid application online because the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has been closed for 13 days, The Associated Press reported.

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“Using existing funds, we were able to keep FSA offices open as long as possible, but unfortunately had to close them when funding ran out,” USDA Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueSenate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Energy Secretary Rick Perry is designated survivor for 2019 State of the Union Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE said, according to Reuters.

Purdue announced the deadline will be delayed for the number of business days that USDA offices are closed due to the shutdown. 

The Trump administration authorized a $12 billion aid package last year to protect farmers from losses caused by tariffs incurred in the midst of several trade disputes between the U.S. and other countries.

Some farmers have received funds from the first round of aid payments, but many have not been able to apply yet, according to the AP.

“People didn’t have time to get all this done, and then the government shutdown happened,” John Newton, chief economist with the American Farm Bureau, told the news service. “This is very, very welcome.”

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Treasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' MORE (R-Iowa) in a statement applauded the decision to push the deadline.

“Farmers who haven’t been able to apply for trade assistance would’ve missed the deadline through no fault of their own,” Grassley said. “It’s worth recognizing that farmers applying for assistance in the first place are hurting because of a trade war they didn’t start.”

Andrew Walmsley, a top official with the American Farm Bureau Federation, on Monday told Hill.TV that farmers are feeling the strain as the shutdown nears the three-week mark.