U.S. Agriculture Secretary discusses Trump visit, SNAP funding during shut down

U.S. Agriculture Secretary
U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Published: Jan. 14, 2019 at 4:58 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The United States Secretary of Agriculture is in New Orleans Monday for the 100th American Farm Bureau Federation convention.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue emphasized the importance of President Donald Trump’s attendance at the meeting, citing specifically his support among farmers.

“Farmers would love to get back to normalcy but they are long-term planners,” said Perdue. “They understand the law of the land and that China has been cheating for a long time. They are in it for the long game, so farmers have been very supportive-- surprisingly supportive and very good constituency for the president.”

Farmers have been hit particularly hard by the trade war with China. The Department of Agriculture has since set up a Farmers Aid program to assist farmers in an already challenging crop year.

Perdue ensured that during the shut down the deadline to apply for the program has been extended.

“We may lose some farmers, it happens from time to time,” Perdue said. “Crop prices have not been good the past few years. We have had a lot of rain throughout a lot of harvest areas this year, hurricanes and other natural disasters, so the USDA is doing everything it can as I said. We are extending that deadline for the Farmers Aid program for however long the shutdown will last.”

Perdue said in the meantime, The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking to rebuild markets world wide.

As far as food stamp assistance goes, Perdue said the USDA has fully funded the month of February.

According to the USDA, to protect SNAP participants’ access for February, the USDA is working with states to issue February benefits earlier than usual.

USDA will rely on a provision of the just-expired Continuing Resolution (CR), which provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations within 30 days of the CR’s expiration.

Perdue says it is up to the states to communicate that the deadline for filing has been moved up.

“We have tried to communicate it as best we can. Food stamps are safe for February,” Perdue said. “States have had to push up filing to January 20, so we are hoping all our states get in their file.”

If the shutdown continues, Perdue says there is no other work around available, and the month of March would only partially be funded.

“Based on the arcane part of the law that we were able to use, which was 30 days after the shut down, we won’t be able to use this again,” Perdue said. “This is a one-time deal.”

According to Perdue, the agency has $3 billion in reserve, which only partially funds the program for the month of March.

“It won’t go through the whole month,” Perdue said. “But again, February is secure and safe for those who depend on Snap. We hope this shut down will end long before then.”

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