Several services provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Foreign Agricultural Service and other divisions have been put on hold because of the federal government shutdown.

Shutdown hits reports, possibly importsAs of Oct. 3, the effects of the shutdown on imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico were minimal, said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

But that could change.

“If the standoff continues, I can see that the effects may snowball, with import inspections perhaps delayed,” Jungmeyer said.

Brent Harrison, president of Nogales-based Al Harrison Co., also had not heard reports of any imports being slowed through Oct. 3.

Al Harrison planned to begin bringing in Mexican watermelons the week of Oct. 7, with squash following shortly thereafter, and Harrison didn’t anticipate any problems.

“I haven’t heard anything, and I’m sure they’d be raising a stink” if there were problems, Harrison said.

Nonessential operations at AMS shut down Oct. 1.

Shuttered AMS operations that could affect the fresh produce industry include:

  • Market News
  • Marketing Orders and Agreements
  • Country of Origin Labeling
  • Pesticide Data Program
  • National Organic Program
  • Specialty Crop Block Grant Administration.

“Some information on this site may not be up to date, some transactions may not be processed, and some inquiries may not be responded to until fiscal year 2014 appropriations are enacted,” according to a notice posted on the AMS homepage Oct. 1.

Other divisions affected by the government shutdown include Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services; Office of Communications; and Research, Education and Economics.

Not FDA

While several USDA functions are being curtailed during the shutdown, the Food and Drug Administration’s import services were not expected to be significantly affected.

“During the government shutdown, FDA import operations shall remain operational and should not be severely impacted,” Domenic Veneziano, director of the FDA’s Division of Import Operations, said in an e-mail to industry members.

“Obviously some of our duties will not be covered. However, entry review, sampling and examination of high-risk shipments, as well as compliance issues, will continue.”