Farmers in pinch over checks they can't cash

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Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:00 am

One of the ripple effects farmers are feeling in the wake of the government shutdown is the inability to cash some checks from elevators when they bring their grain in after harvest.

State law requires elevators to include a lender's name on a check when a farmer has a loan against the grain. With no one at Farm Service Agency offices because of the shutdown, checks can't be cashed when the lender is the FSA.

“We've got millions of dollars of grain checks out there that farmers need,” said Dan Poppe, president of the Archer (Neb.) Cooperative Credit Union, with locations in Archer, Dannebrog and Central City.

He said entire rural economies count on the money.

“It impacts not only our farmers, who are relying heavily on the money, but also the local grocery store, hardware store, the feed and seed,” Poppe said.

In response, Archer Cooperative is working with individual farmers case by case to approve emergency loans if the farmer qualifies. Poppe said Archer approved two in the last week.

Poppe said he couldn't estimate how many area farmers might run into the problem. In 2013, the FSA made more than 19,700 direct operating loans totaling $1.06 billion, according to the USDA.

Poppe said he contacted the office of U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., to see if some FSA employees could be made available for just a few hours to sign checks, and he was told it wasn't possible.

Wisconsin's state agriculture secretary, Ben Brancel, has heard complaints in his office but can't help. He heard from a farmer on the first day of the shutdown who had received a check for a cow he sold, but couldn't cash it because he had an FSA loan. “Our advice to him was he was going to have to wait,” Brancel said.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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