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Last night the federal government officially shutdown for the first time in 17 years when Congress failed to agree on a spending bill. Today, all federal employees received a notice about whether they're essential to daily operations, or whether they'll have to clean up their desks and be put on furlough.
So what exactly does this mean for food? First and foremost, the USDA is mostly dark, Reuters reports. The website is down ("Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available," the homepage says), crop reports may be delayed, and there is no access to USDA's data. Inspections of meat, however, will continue, as meat inspections are considered essential services. The FDA, in the meantime, will reportedly continue monitoring recalls and conducting investigations, although activity will be limited, USA Today reports.
Meanwhile, the SNAP program will still be distributed to those in need, CBS reports, but other programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as smaller feeding programs, could shut down without the money to operate. CBS also notes that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that senior nutrition grants for 2.5 million elderly Americans would also not be funded.
On the other end of the spectrum, traveling might be more of a hassle in the upcoming days, if the furlough continues. Federal air traffic controllers will reportedly remain on the job, as will inspectors to ensure safety and security. Foreign applications for visas, and U.S. passport applications, could continue, as the fees collected in these processes help fund the department. Unfortunately, if the fees do not support operations, these could all shut down. CBS notes that during the last government shutdown for 27 days, somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 applications for visas went unprocessed, and some 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed.
Embassies and consulates abroad, however, will continue functioning. And stateside, to ease the pain, The Washington Post notes that plenty of D.C. bars are offering discounted bar bites and booze for folks with a government ID.
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