Federal government shutdown frustrating some Utah farmers, brewers

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The government shutdown means a frustrating start to the year for folks in Utah’s agriculture and food industries, like those working for Wasatch and Squatters Brewery.

“We’re backed up on label approval right now with eight to nine different new beers we’re going to have to wait to release until this whole thing is out and resolved and done,” said Jon Lee Co-COO & Brewmaster for both breweries.

The shutdown means they can’t serve up their latest creations without federally approved labels. Plus, Lee is concerned about the future of farmers they lean on to make their craft.

“If this goes on too far, there’s various agricultural subsidies and programs that are run,” he said. “Beer is made up largely mostly of malted barley, malted wheat.”

A Cache County agriculture expert said farmers are in limbo.

“We typically get market reports almost by the hour, so we know what commodities are worth, be that crops and/or livestock and where those reports are unavailable. It’s just kind of a guess to what a product would be worth,” said Clark Israelsen, an agricultural extension agent with Utah State University.

While the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said they produce similar numbers for important state products, Israelsen said farmers are “flying in the dark” right now.

State workers, who inspect food manufacturing facilities, farms and eggs, say though they’re missing out on some federal training opportunities, they still have the public’s backs.

“The food is safe. There hasn’t been a major impact in regards to food safety,” said Travis Waller, director of regulatory services for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. “The states typically pick up the slack in situations like these.”

Waller said the department is contracted by the federal government. Therefore, these state employees will continue to get their paychecks; it’s just when the department will receive their federal payment that’s in question.

The shutdown continues with inconveniences and uncertainties.

“It’s easy to forget how much you rely on government to help across all aspects of your entire life,” Lee said.

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