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Tens of thousands of furloughed federal workers have been recalled in the midst of the longest shutdown in U.S. history — in some cases, by expanding the definition of essential services.
After 27 days of a partial federal government shutdown, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue ordered 2,500 employees on Wednesday to open half the Farm Service Agency offices around the country.
It would be a three-day window with limited services available.
The FSA provides crop insurance and serves as a lender of last resort for farmers on the brink of going belly up.
Produce grower George Fetzer showed up at the agency Thursday in an effort to keep his Valley View Farms afloat.
"The weather last year wiped me out. I lost all my pumpkins, all my fall crops. I lost $40,000 in retail and for small guy like me, I can't afford that. All I wanted to do was get a loan to pay my bills off."
Fetzer expected to close on his loan in December. But the shutdown prevented him from getting the final paperwork. He was hoping to close this week, but he had no luck.
"I can't get my money because they don't have the funding," he told CNBC outside an FSA office in Hackettstown, New Jersey.
Nationwide other agencies are also bringing back furloughed employees.
Thirty-six hundred aviation safety inspectors for the Federal Aviation Administration have been recalled to their jobs.
The Federal Drug Administration is bringing back 400 inspectors to check high risk foods, medicine and medical devices.
And the Internal Revenue Service will bring half its workforce, or 46,000 employees, to help issue tax refunds.
None of these workers will be paid.
Air traffic controllers and others have sued the Trump administration over mandatory work without pay. A U.S. district judge this week declined to rule on the issue and declined to give employees the right to sit out if they choose.
In the meantime, other federal agencies are beginning to run out of money. The federal court system - including the Supreme Court- can only sustain funded operations through January 25th, according to a post on the administrative courts website.
Civilian businesses are beginning to see an impact from the government shutdown.
Restaurants in Washington, DC which are typically packed with government workers at lunchtime are empty. Ports and shippers report some ancillary delays and headaches.
Some farmers who were getting payments to mitigate the financial damages from the tariffs and trade war haven't received their checks.
Fetzer is furious about the situation. He says he can't understand why the standoff in Washington can't be ended through compromise. "People's lives are getting ruined over this," he added.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed legislation guaranteeing back-pay for the 800,000 employees who've been forced off their jobs. In the meantime, more and more of them are being forced to punch the clock without a paycheck as the shutdown barrels on.