Today marks the 20th day of the partial U.S. government shutdown, one day shy of the longest shutdown in Congressional history.
Many U.S. government personnel have been furloughed until government appropriations are restored. This includes much of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including FAS and ERS offices.
Some agencies, and thus the employees working in them, are “exempt” from a shutdown because they do not get their funding through the congressional appropriations process. Other agencies, or parts of them, also have funding not subject to annual appropriations – for example, through fees they charge for their services, or from trust funds or multi-year budgets. Employees whose salaries are funded in that way would continue working, and getting paid, as normal. For example, export grain grading by USDA FGIS is exempt but some of the work – like grain appeals at the National Grain Center in Kansas City and FGIS international services is not exempt.
For employees whose salaries are paid from appropriations, there is another distinction: “excepted” vs. “non-excepted” (not “essential” vs. “non-essential,” which are the more commonly used, but not official, terms).
Excepted employees are those whose jobs involve the safety of human life, the protection of property, or certain other types of work designated by their agencies as necessary to continue. These are not necessarily the same as “emergency” employees who are expected to continue coming to work when agencies close for other reasons, such as for severe weather.
Excepted employees are to continue reporting for work as normal during a shutdown, though for the meantime they would not be paid for that time. Because agencies are required to pay for services performed, those employees are guaranteed to be paid after Congress passes – and the president signs – a new appropriation or continuing resolution. Exactly when they would be paid would depend on the timing of the new spending authority and the payroll cycle the agency uses.
Employees who are neither “exempt” nor “excepted” are put on unpaid furlough. They are to perform what guidance calls “minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities.” That typically is to last about a half-day on their first scheduled workday after a shutdown begins. They then are to leave the workplace and they are not to work while on furlough, even on a volunteer basis.
The Federal Grain Inspection Service, according to its agency shutdown plan, will continue to provide all grain and related commodity inspection and weighing program activities supported by user fees authorized by the U. S. Grain Standards Act (USGSA) and the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. Local managers of the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) will evaluate service requests and, with approval from FGIS’ Field Management Division (FMD) Director, assign employees to revenue generating functions.
During the partial shut down, exporters are reminded to continue to report sales as required: https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs/export-sales-reporting-program. FAS Administrator Ken Isley, who is one of the essential employees and working, indicated this week that that public export sales report (https://apps.fas.usda.gov/export-sales/esrd1.html) will resume once appropriations are restored and FAS will try to provide for missing reports on the same weekly basis in retrospect.
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