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Indiana farmers struggle without key USDA crop reports

Posted at 11:40 AM, Jan 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 15:10:26-05

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — Some Indiana farmers are concerned with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to delay the release of key crop reports because of the partial federal government shutdown, saying they don't know what to do with last year's crop without the data.

Brad Winger, who farms corn and soybeans in Howard and Miami counties, told The Kokomo Tribune that he feels as if he's "driving blind."

"We just don't know how to proceed," Winger said. "It's unsettling that our government can't get anything done. It's very concerning."

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced he would sign legislation to reopen the federal government for three weeks and allow government agencies to temporarily resume business. It wasn't immediately clear what impact this development would have on the release of crop reports.

The USDA announced the delay Jan. 4. The reports detail the size of last year's harvests and give an early estimate of what farmers will plant in the upcoming season.

The reports would also be valuable to understand the impact of the ongoing trade war with China, said Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University.

"We're in this period of truce with the Chinese," he said. "They said they would start to buy our soybeans, but we don't know how much they've bought because that data isn't being reported."

Hurt said farmers are still in the planning phase for this year's crop, so they're not yet making important purchasing decisions.

The USDA on Thursday reopened all of its Farm Service Agency offices, which help farmers and ranchers apply for financial assistance. The offices would provide limited administrative services under limited hours, according to a USDA news release.

The shutdown stemmed from Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall.