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Hoeven asks USDA undersecretary to help with producer need

WASHINGTON -- North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven today called Michael Scuse, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, to seek his help with Farm Service Agency services for producers.

The Republican senator has received reports from farmers and ranchers that they are unable to access FSA services in the aftermath of a severe winter storm that hit South Dakota and the southern tier of North Dakota last weekend. Producers also said they haven't been able to obtain check endorsements from FSA for loans and other payments.

Hoeven made the case that government shutdown rules authorize the agency to retain personnel for public health and the protection of property. Therefore, the senator asked Scuse to restore agriculture disaster services and initiate damage assessments for lost livestock.

Scuse oversees a range of USDA programs, including the FSA and agriculture disaster programs.

"Although I disagree with the USDA's position that they don't have the authority to act on producer needs, Undersecretary Scuse did commit to making our producers' needs a priority when the government reopens," Hoeven stated in a release.

Hoeven also announced that House leaders this afternoon approved going to conference committee with the Senate on a farm bill, and said it will name its conferees on Saturday. Hoeven, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been named as a conferee for the Senate.

"The House action today is important, because the new farm bill contains the critical livestock indemnity program, which will help ranchers with losses like the one we had last weekend," Hoeven stated.