New River Valley farmers prepare for potential government shutdown

BLACKSBURG, Va. – There are thousands of farms across the Commonwealth, and a government shutdown could impact each of them.

Robert Lafon owns RNF Farms, a small beef farm on the edge of Blacksburg. His family has been here for generations and plans to continue to do so.

“For four generations, since our great-great-grandparents moved from Giles,” Lafon said. “We’ve been farming here ever since and trying to keep it intact as a family farm.”

Lafon said with a government shutdown, if inspections slow down, it could easily impact his farm.

“If the inspector is not on the floor, you can’t do any of the harvest or the cutting process and that would obviously push all dates back into the future,” Lafon said.

He also said if inspections start to slow down, surrounding farmers will have to move to other ways to have their meat inspected — making the process even more stressful.

“All the beef that were scheduled at other places would be trying to go into these other facilities that are already full,” Lafon said.

Officials from the Farm Bureau said though there is no plan to shut inspections down, a shutdown will affect operations at the USDA offices.

“Farmers rely on the USDA offices and USDA programs across the commonwealth,” said Ben Rowe, the national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau. “The most immediate impact would be the furlough of USDA employees.”

Rowe said with a shutdown, farmers then lose access to important information.

“Farmers will lose access to up-to-date marketing reports and crop reports, which make it difficult for them to market their commodities and also plan for the season ahead in 2024,” said Rowe.

Agriculture experts from Virginia Tech said with a government shutdown, all farms will be affected, but small farms may take the brunt of the shutdown.

“It’s going to in, some sense, perhaps disproportionately, impact smaller farmers or farmers that are growing specialty crops,” said Matt Holt, head of the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech.

While experts said they cannot put a number on how much this will impact farmers and food supplies, they said the longer a shutdown goes on, the more the everyday person will be affected.

If the United States government cannot come up with a deal by Oct. 1, 2023, farms across the Commonwealth and the nation will be affected.

About the Author:

Thomas grew up right here in Roanoke and is a graduate of Salem High School and Virginia Tech.