ABOVE: The website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has messages explaining that the agency is shut down. // Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.
By MATT BLOIS
Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are mostly closed during the federal government shutdown, farmers and real estate agents in Williamson County aren’t seeing much of an effect locally.
According to the latest data available from the USDA Census of Agriculture, there were about 1,200 farmers in Williamson County in 2012.
Matt Horsman, the County Director for the University of Tennessee agriculture extension program, said he hasn’t heard from any farmers who have been affected by the shutdown.
Horsman said the government shut down when some farmers should have received a subsidy payment. Fortunately, he said most farmers would probably receive those payments without any issues.
Williamson County farmers received about $920,000 in subsidies from the federal government in 2017, according to a database compiled by the Environmental Working Group using data from USDA.
Horsman said some farmers have to verify their production with USDA before receiving the subsidy, but he thinks most of those farmers have already done that. If there are farmers that still need to verify their production, they’ll likely have to wait until the government is up and running again.
“It’s not necessarily that you’re not going to get the payment,” he said. “It’s just that you’re not going to get it right away.”
The biggest issue for farmer seems to simply be the uncertainty about which services are available during a shutdown.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is also closed due to the federal government shutdown, but the agency will still continue to endorse some loans. A few types of loans will be delayed because of the shutdown.
The National Association of Realtors recently surveyed more than 2,000 of its members and found that 11 percent had a current client whose signing or closing was affected by the government shutdown.
About a quarter of those those disruptions were clients who decided not to buy because of general economic uncertainty rather than delays because of the shutdown.
Bo Patten, the Government Relations Director for the Williamson County Association of Realtors, said the shutdown hasn’t slowed down the real estate market locally. He wrote in an email that the association hasn’t heard from any of its members who have been affected.
He said local real estate agents were initially concerned about how the shutdown would affect the Internal Revenue Service because that agency processes income verification on some loans. At first, the agency wasn’t going to process requests for income verification, but last week the IRS announced that it would start verifying income despite the shutdown.
There were similar concerns among real estate agents about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance program. The agency was not planning to renew existing policies or issues, but reversed course on December 28.
Parts of the federal government shut down on December 22 when Congress failed to pass a bill funding several government agencies for 2019.