The farm sector would gain $27 billion for climate mitigation, including payments for planting cover crops, from the social welfare and climate change bill passed by the House, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Agriculture can lead the way in the fight on climate with climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions and create new and better market opportunities for producers."
Stymied by lawsuits that contend USDA debt relief for farmers of color is actually reverse discrimination, House Democrats proposed an alternative: full or partial forgiveness of USDA loans to limited-resource farmers. The multi-billion-dollar proposal, which does not mention race, is directed toward economically distressed farmers and ranchers in high-poverty areas.
Lawsuits to block $4 billion in loan forgiveness for minority farmers show a lack of historical awareness, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the BIO online convention on Wednesday. "It's a wonder where those farmers were over the last 100 years, when their Black counterparts were being discriminated against and didn't hear a peep from white farmers about how unfortunate that circumstance was."
A dozen white farmers "have established a strong likelihood" that a loan forgiveness program for minority farmers is unconstitutional, said the federal judge hearing the lawsuit in Green Bay, Wisconsin. District judge William Griesbach issued a nationwide order blocking debt-relief payments by USDA while he decides — possibly next week — whether to issue an injunction against the program enacted by Congress in March.
Socially disadvantaged farmers will begin receiving letters this week alerting them of a Biden administration program to pay off loans they owe to the USDA — "historic debt relief" in the words of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Loan forgiveness could total $4 billion by the time, later this year, the government retires bank loans made to minority farmers with USDA loan guarantees.
With federal pandemic aid in their hands, farmers and ranchers borrowed far less money than usual from ag bankers during the opening months of this year for equipment, livestock, and operating expenses, according to a Federal Reserve survey of commercial lenders.
With Republicans complaining of discrimination against white farmers, the House passed a coronavirus bill on Wednesday that would provide an estimated $4 billion in debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers.
Congress is poised today to pass one of the most sweeping relief programs for minority farmers in the nation’s history, through a provision of President Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill. Although the landmark legislation, which would cancel $4 billion worth of debt, seemed to emerge out of nowhere, it actually is the result of more than 20 years of organizing by Black farmers.(No paywall)
In just one month, a proposal for $4 billion in debt relief for Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers went from just-introduced legislation to a near-reality, needing only a final vote in the House as early as Tuesday. The Democrat-authored initiative to retire the farmers' debts on USDA loans is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan backed by President Biden.
A three-month extension of higher SNAP benefits and $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers are in the hands of the Senate following a 219-212 vote by the House over the weekend. "We are one step closer," said President Biden, who used the phrase to describe elements of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, from funds for coronavirus vaccinations and unemployment benefits to "helping millions of Americans feed their families."
The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures of farmers who borrowed money from the USDA and are in financial distress.
Farm income recovered this summer from the steep coronavirus-driven declines of last spring, according to ag bankers in the Plains and Midwest who took part in Federal Reserve surveys. "An influx of government payments and higher prices for agricultural commodities provided greater support for farm finances in the third quarter and seemed to limit demand for financing," said a summary by two Kansas City Fed economists.
The margin for error is shrinking in the farm sector as financial stress, measured by rising debt loads and the erosion of working capital, is rising, said Todd Van Hoose, chief executive of the Farm Credit Council on Wednesday.
An array of factors, from foreign competition to slower economic growth at home and abroad, will constrain U.S. farm income in the near term, notwithstanding the impact of trade war and bad weather this year, said a panel of economists on Tuesday. One of them, Seth Meyer of the University of …
Farmers and ranchers are taking out fewer loans from agricultural banks, and asking for smaller amounts of money when they need cash to pay for equipment, livestock or day-to-day expenses, said the Federal Reserve in its quarterly Agricultural Finance Databook. "Weaknesses in the sector persisted, continuing to pressure farm cash flows and agricultural credit conditions," reports the Fed.
In an indirect sign of stress in the farm sector, small agricultural banks are making adjustments, such as syndicating loans and charging higher interest rates, to offset risk in the face of high demand for farm loans, said the Federal Reserve in its quarterly Ag Finance Databook. The Fed's Beige Book, meanwhile, said spring floods in the northern Plains and western Corn Belt could put an additional burden on a farm sector coping with low commodity prices.
Farmers typically try to stretch their dollars during the summer in the expectation that payday will arrive with the fall harvest. Not this year. Ag bankers report the largest summertime increase in non-real-estate loan volume in 16 years and it was driven primarily by demand for operating loans to pay day-to-day expenses, said a quarterly Federal Reserve report.
U.S. farm income is higher than expected this year and is regaining its footing after taking a tumble early this decade, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. Nonetheless, net farm income will be the lowest since 2006, and the debt-to-asset ratio is rising for the sixth year in a row.