The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it plans to temporarily reopen about half of its Farm Service Agency offices around the country and call back about 2,500 employees furloughed because of the partial government shutdown.
The USDA operates more than 2,100 FSA offices and nearly half are expected reopen for at least three business days, starting Thursday.
About 800,000 total federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown, which started days before Christmas after President Donald Trump refused to sign any spending bills that don't include more than $5 billion in funding for his proposed southern border wall. Democrats have rejected any proposal to fund the wall.
"Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America's agricultural producers," USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release. "We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans. Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown."
The shutdown comes as agricultural producers around the country are preparing to make plans for the upcoming planting season as well as considering crop insurance and credit and loan programs. The FSA offices serve an important function in processing and administering crop insurance and farm loan programs.
An unidentified USDA spokesperson responded to a CNBC inquiry Wednesday by indicating that "983 out of 2,124 FSA offices are reopening."
The nation's largest organization of farmers and ranchers applauded the USDA's announcement that it will temporarily reopen the FSA offices.
"We are delighted to hear it," said Will Rodger, director of policy communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation. "It's a good move and something our farmers need. It's particularly welcome since FSA lends to new smaller and disadvantaged farmers as well as more established farms and ranches."