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.