Area Farm Service Agency offices reopen to help aid struggling farmers

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(KWTX) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reopened USDA Farm Service Agency offices in Central Texas and across the country to help struggling farmers.

Richard Cortese's family has run its farm near Little River-Academy for more than 75 years. (Photo by Bill Gowdy)

FSA employees, like other federal employees whose agencies were hit by the partial government shutdown, aren’t getting paid for their time, however, and won’t be until the impasse in Washington is resolved.

FSA offices in Belton and Waco were among those that reopened Wednesday giving farmers until Feb. 14 to apply for loans and aid through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Farmers in Central Texas have been affected by drought, heavy rains and high tariffs.

Farmers have watched prices drop worldwide on their products which has affected their yield.

Longtime Bell County farmer Richard Cortese says many farmers are giving up in the face of such difficult conditions.

"Were hurting tremendously, I was just reading a while ago in a magazine where they're expecting to have increases in retirement bankruptcies or just sellouts of family farms."

"We can't let the poorest people in the world set the prices in America for agriculture producers because we've got to be able to live in the world and send our kids to college just like everybody else earning a good living,” said Cortese, whose family has run its farm near Little River-Academy for more than 75 years.

Low prices in the U.S. are also hurting farmers and ranchers, he said.

"You know agriculture is not only important because we produce food and fiber for the world, but is important because were an economic driver in this country and prices have been so low we haven't been able to partner with that growth in our economy like we ought to be able to do."

President Donald Trump signed into law last year the 2018 Farm Bill that is to function as a type of insurance, helping farmers make up their deficits through government loans.

Cortese says his family won't need them but many others do.

"At this point in time it's probably a five or six on a scale of 10, but some people it's hurting just like when you're laid off and we know a lot of people are not getting paid right now for those people it's very devastating."

Cortese serves as a delegate for the U.S. Grains Council for the Texas Farm Bureau.

“Agriculture in general is in trouble but the family farms will survive if we can move that dial a little bit on the on the price scale,” he said.

Cortese says the process of filing for loans and aid through local FSA offices is a long and tedious one and he hopes those in need will learn soon that the offices have been reopened by the government and complete their applications.