As we’ve previously reported, farmers faced more than a pandemic in 2020. Farmers faced a pandemic on top of the already significant challenges of five years of low farm prices, decreased trade and loss of export markets due to the Trump administration’s trade wars, and the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.
To help farmers during the pandemic, on January 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). This will have an immediate impact on family farms suffering financial losses due to the coronavirus and is hopefully the first step from the new administration in addressing the incredibly challenging farm economy that is driving farm bankruptcies and increased consolidation in agriculture.
According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers—approximately 10% of all borrowers—are eligible.
Specifically, USDA will temporarily suspend non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice; and USDA will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the Department of Justice. Additionally, USDA has extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. In addition, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to assist in servicing their customers.
According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers—approximately 10% of all borrowers—are eligible. The temporary suspension is in place until further notice and is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.
What Farmers Should Do
FSA encourages producers to contact their county FSA office directly to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus. For servicing information, access farmers.gov.
About FSA Lending Programs
USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides several different loans for producers, which fall under two main categories:
- Guaranteed loans are made and serviced by commercial lenders, such as banks, the Farm Credit System, credit unions and other non-traditional lenders. FSA guarantees the lender’s loan against loss, up to 95 percent.
- Direct loans are made and serviced by FSA using funds from the federal government.
The most common loan types are Farm Ownership, Farm Operating, and Farm Storage Facility Loans, with Microloans for each:
- Farm Ownership: Helps producers purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, construct a new or improve an existing farm or ranch building, pay closing costs, and pay for soil and water conservation and protection.
- Farm Operating: Helps producers purchase livestock and equipment and pay for minor real estate repairs and annual operating expenses.
- Farm Storage Facility Loans are made directly to producers for the construction of cold or dry storage and includes handling equipment and mobile storage such as refrigerated trucks.
- Microloans: Direct Farm Ownership, Operating Loans, and Farm Storage Facility Loans have a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche-type operations.