Headwinds are intensifying for the farm sector, although high commodity prices support a positive outlook for farm finances through the end of this year, said a survey of ag bankers on Thursday. Alongside increased loan volume during the summer, “interest rates rose sharply and pushed financing expenses to the highest level since 2019.”
Financially distressed farmers have received $800 million of an anticipated $1.3 billion to reduce their debts on USDA farm loans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. "Today, I've got to think there are thousands of producers out there who can breathe a little easier," he said during a teleconference.
The strong agricultural economy, fueled by high commodity prices, has reduced farmers' reliance on farm lenders, despite concerns about rising input costs, according to a Federal Reserve survey of ag bankers. "Higher costs are likely to put upward pressure on demand for credit, but strong farm income and working capital could also supplement financing for some borrowers," said the Kansas City Fed on Thursday.
Elevated commodity prices supported farm income and kept the U.S. agricultural economy strong into this autumn, said the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank on Wednesday. "Prices of most major crops were at multiyear highs moving into fall harvest and supported farm revenue prospects," wrote economists Nathan Kauffman and Ty Kreitman.
The Agriculture Department would offer small farmers one-time loan forgiveness of up to $250,000 under legislation announced by five Democratic senators on Thursday. Lead sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she would try to include debt relief in the upcoming infrastructure bill "to make certain our farmers are not left behind."
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.
Heartened by sharp increases in commodity prices, farmers and ranchers across the Midwest and Plains are paying off bank loans and opening their wallets for big-ticket purchases, said a report from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday.
Government payments have improved the outlook for farm finances, but like the general economy, that outlook remains highly uncertain amid the pandemic, said a Federal Reserve report on Thursday.
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.
The Department of Agriculture said Thursday it would provide up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses and farmers meet their working capital needs during the pandemic. The new program is patterned on the USDA's existing Business and Industry program but with a higher loan guarantee level and lower requirements for collateral. (No paywall)
Farmland prices are holding steady and agricultural banks are financially strong — potentially two key sources of support for the farm sector during the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic — said the Federal Reserve in a report on Thursday. (No paywall)
Several environmental and animal advocacy groups are suing the USDA's Farm Service Agency for allegedly delaying and over-redacting its responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. The groups say the agency has systematically withheld information about its loan programs and concealed how much of its funds are directed toward industrial-scale animal agriculture.
Agricultural bankers are lending a markedly larger amount of money to farmers and ranchers, with loan volume up 11 percent from April, May, and June of last year, said the Federal Reserve on Thursday. It was the highest rate of growth in loan volume in the spring quarter since 2011.
Ag bankers are charging higher interest rates and asking farmers to pledge more collateral in the face of a rising demand for loans, the Federal Reserve said Thursday in its quarterly Agricultural Finance Databook.
About half of the USDA’s local offices will be open for three days, beginning Thursday, to deal with existing farm loans and provide tax documents to farmers and ranchers. USDA employees will not consider applications for new loans, the new dairy support program, disaster relief, or Trump tariff payments.
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.
Agricultural bankers are slowly raising the interest rate on loans to farmers and ranchers, with the largest increases on the short-term operating loans that account for 60 percent of new, non-real estate farm loans at the banks, said the Ag Finance Databook published by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. "Although farm debt also has continued to rise alongside higher rates, the increase in interest expense has remained relatively small."
African-American farmers lost millions of acres of land across the South as a result of an obscure legal provision that is only now being corrected in state legislatures around the country, according to FERN’s latest story by Leah Douglas produced in partnership with The Nation magazine. (No Paywall)