The deadline for signing up for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP) has been extended to Thursday, Feb. 14, to accommodate farmers who could not apply before the previous deadline due to the government shutdown, according to Bill Hoover, a member of the state Farm Service Agency committee.

“The county office has been busy with farmers who did not apply for the MFP before the government shutdown,” Hoover told The Daily News in an email. “The deadline to apply for the MFP has been extended until Feb. 14.”

The MFP is a program that provides direct payments to eligible farmers harmfully affected by tariffs that caused the loss of traditional export markets, according to the USDA website. The previous deadline for application was on Jan. 15, but farmers could not apply due to FSA offices being closed during the government shutdown.

The FSA offices are now catching up on all such applications.

“The office has been busy catching up with work that would have been completed already if there would not have been a shutdown,” Hoover said.

Hoover explained the county office is making “great progress in catching up with all the applications” and all the work should be completed before the new deadline.

The new deadline of Thursday falls the day before another shutdown could take place if the federal government does not come to another agreement over financing.

Hoover said no precautions have been made for that possibility. Instead, he simply encourages farmers and crop producers to apply earlier rather than later.

“Now that the county FSA offices are open, do not wait until the deadline to go and make an application for the MFP program, or any other program,” Hoover said. “It is highly recommended farmers call the office now and make an appointment at the earliest possible time to complete their required applications. That will help the office staff complete everyone’s applications in a timely manor and will prevent farmers from having a long wait at the counter if they arrive at the office at the same time many other farmers decide to go to the office.”

The FSA offices opened several days during the shutdown, but only to allow time sensitive documents to be completed.

“There are two different programs that are administered from the USDA-FSA office (in Huntingdon County),” Hoover said. “One part of the office administers the farm programs such as the MFP program. The other part of the office administers the farm loan program. During the several days that the FSA office was opened, it was the farm loan staff that were working. They were there to complete time sensitive tasks such as cashing checks and doing paperwork necessary to complete the tax year paperwork. There was no farm program work done at that time.”

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