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USDA to recall more than 9,000 furloughed workers to provide farm aid

USDA to recall more than 9,000 furloughed workers to provide farm aid
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The Agriculture Department (USDA) on Tuesday announced it would call back to work more than 9,700 employees currently furloughed during the government shutdown to help provide financial assistance to farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueSonny PerdueTrump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects MORE said in a statement that the USDA would reopen all Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices starting Thursday, allowing farmers and ranchers to apply for loans and financial assistance.

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Perdue also said the USDA would extend a deadline for farmers and ranchers harmed by retaliatory tariffs to apply for a special aid program announced by the Trump administration in July.

“The FSA provides vital support for farmers and ranchers and they count on those services being available,” Perdue said in a statement. “We want to offer as much assistance as possible until the partial government shutdown is resolved.”

Reopening FSA offices will allow farmers and ranchers to receive benefits from 14 loan and subsidy programs that had been halted by the partial government shutdown, the USDA said.

The announcement is welcome news for a slew of small U.S. farms that have suffered from blowback to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE’s trade battles and sagging commodity prices. But it also forces almost 10,000 federal employees sidelined during the shutdown, now in its 32nd day, to return to work unpaid.

More than 800,000 government employees are on track to miss their second paycheck if Trump and congressional Democrats fail to strike a miracle deal to end the shutdown by Tuesday at midnight.

The Trump administration has called back to work thousands of federal employees previously deemed “nonessential” to help ease some of the economic pain felt by Americans during the shutdown.

Democrats and left-leaning government watchdog groups have raised legal questions about the recalls and have blasted Trump for what they call an effort to prolong the shutdown. Two federal employees unions have also sued the Trump administration for forcing furloughed workers back to the office without pay.

“I have some questions about how the Administration is arbitrarily picking and choosing which agencies to reopen in the middle of the shutdown,” said Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security Defense policy bill would create new cyber czar position MORE (D-Va.), who represents a state with thousands of federal employees.

Warner on Tuesday introduced a bill that would automatically renew funding for all federal departments but the legislative branch and White House if Congress fails to reach a new deal. Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Senators call for passage of bill to cement alcohol excise tax relief MORE (R-Ohio), have similar legislation.