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Photo of US Capitol, Washington DC, with Caution banner
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15.01.2019
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US Government Shutdown Affects Food & Certification Industry

As the US Government’s Partial Shutdown drags into it’s 24th day, the US is starting to see the impacts on “non-essential” government programs and services. As agencies and departments run out of alternative or creative funding tools, increasingly it’s becoming clear how much the government does in a nation of 340 million people.

Important Ongoing Work and Standard Setting Halted

In particular the US Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture have ceased or curtailed many of their operations. Read the Washington Post’s eye-opening article about this here.

At the same time, the entire USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is shuttered. The staff are all furloughed without pay just as the National Organic Program implements some important parts of their annual cycle. Most importantly, the USDA provides its most important Certification Agent training every year at the end of January. This training updates certifiers, creates consistency, and improves the functioning of the certification system over an entire day each year. The training is hosted by the Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA) and includes a reception hosted by Intact US, Inc.

Intact attends the NOP and ACA training each year to work with and understand the need of organic certifiers. ECERT, our core product, is used for certification of 38%, and growing, of US organic operations and organic certifiers worldwide.

Unfortunately, the shutdown stops NOP staff from preparing and makes their attendance at the training an open question. In addition, it opens concern about whether the NOP will be able to provide the subsequent training during the Biofach trade show and conference in Nuremburg in February.

Ongoing work, including important enforcement priorities defined in the 2018 Farm Bill, and ongoing standard setting are also all halted.

All Americans Feel the Impact of US Government Shutdown

I found Paul Waldman writing in the Washington Post reminding us of all the areas that impact day to day Americans, in addition to visitors, particularly eye opening. See below. We often don’t appreciate the many ways that government participates in our day to day lives. A landmark event such as this reminds us.

  • The Food and Drug Administration has halted food safety inspections.
  • Environmental Protection Agency inspectors are no longer monitoring compliance with environmental laws.
  • Air traffic controllers, who make sure the 43,000 daily flights in the United States don’t slam into one another and send some of the 2.6 million passengers plunging to a fiery death, are working without pay.
  • Aid programs like food stamps and the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC), which provides formula, food, and other kinds of assistance to poor mothers and their children, could soon run out of money and have to curtail benefits.
  • Federal contractors are losing $200 million a day, according to Bloomberg News.
  • The backlog at immigration courts, which was already severe, is growing worse by the day as the processing of cases has shut down.
  • The E-Verify system, which allows employers to verify that employees are legal to work in the United States, is no longer operating.
  • Small business loans and government-backed mortgages are on hold, leaving businesses stuck and home buyers in limbo.
  • Farmers who rely on government loans and services have been particularly hard hit, leaving the survival of many family farms in jeopardy.
  • The FBI Agents Association is warning that the shutdown “is threatening national security as thousands of federal law enforcement professionals, working without pay, grow anxious that personal financial hardships may jeopardize their security clearances and as furloughs of their support staffs slow investigations.“
  • Preparations for the vital 2020 U.S. Census have been impeded by the shutdown, and “dozens of other surveys the bureau conducts have been stopped, leading to information gaps that could destabilize the U.S. economy, economists say.“
  • Without park rangers to keep order, national parks have been overrun with trash, vandalism and misbehavior by visitors; some people have even cut down trees in Joshua Tree National Park.
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