Local impacts of the government shutdown impacts amplified by the season
MORRIS – The federal government’s 16-day shutdown is over, but federal agencies in Stevens County will continue to feel the impact of the closure into next year.
The timing of the shutdown – right in the middle of the harvest season – implified the long-term impacts for federal employees who needed to be out in the field.
Because the shutdown coincided with fall harvest at the North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab, staff were delayed getting crops off the field and sampling plants and soils at the end of the season.
“The timing for these operations was critical due to unpredictable weather conditions in Minnesota during this part of the year,” said Dr. Abdullah Jaradat, research leader for the lab.
“Delayed harvest and sampling impacted yield potential, and at this time of year, we need to perform critical field operations during a very short time. Some data was lost from automated systems as part of our on-farm research in collaboration with local farmers because of storage capacity of these systems.”
Staff at the Morris Wetland Management District also hoped to be out the field for harvest during the shutdown.
Fall is the peak time for field staff to harvest native seeds. By the time the shutdown was over, wind and rain had knocked most of the available seeds on the ground, said Bruce Freske, district manager for the Morris Wetland Management District.
Without a fall seed harvest, some of next spring’s planned planting projects will end up being delayed until after more seeds can be harvested in fall 2014.
The district also has a short window of time to complete any controlled burning projects in the fall, which also fell during the shutdown, Freske said.
This was particularly frustrating, since the late, wet spring also cut back on the number of burning project district staff could complete.
“We were hoping to get caught up a little this fall,” Freske said.
In the short term, the shutdown forced the district to cancel events – a prairie seed harvest and a visit from Morris Area fourth grade students – and delayed responses to any issues that arose for neighboring farmers. Any projects that can’t be completed yet this fall will be pushed back until the spring.
If the shutdown had happened in the middle of winter, the long term impacts for an agency like FWS would likely have been smaller.
“We’re a field agency, so we do our work in the field. When the ground is thawed, we’re busy,” Freske said.