USDA creates coronavirus loan guarantees for rural businesses and farmers

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)

USDA pilot offers 30-year contract for Conservation Reserve

Since 1985, the Conservation Reserve has paid landowners an annual rent to idle environmentally fragile land under contracts that last for 10 or 15 years. Now a pilot program will offer a 30-year contract in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions.

Local farmers need federal support, Pingree says

As the spread of the novel coronavirus shutters businesses, schools, and restaurants, farmers who sell locally and regionally need support from the federal government, said Rep. Chellie Pingree in a letter sent Monday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (No paywall)

Advocacy groups sue FSA for allegedly withholding farm loan information

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.

USDA opens enrollment as Conservation Reserve grows for first time since 2007

The Conservation Reserve signup that opens on Monday could see landowners idle the largest amount of fragile cropland in years, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, although some analysts say lower government payment rates will hold down enrollment in the program.

At USDA listening session on heirs property, an emphasis on education and preservation

At a listening session on Wednesday, landowners and advocates spoke to the Department of Agriculture about the importance of reforming how the agency aids heirs property owners. The listening session was convened to collect input on a series of heirs property reforms mandated by the 2018 farm bill.

Exempt farm program staff from shutdowns, suggests Peterson

House Agriculture chairman Collin Peterson floated a bill on Wednesday to keep local USDA offices open during any future government shutdowns. “There’s no sense not to have them working,” he said. “Couldn’t agree more,” responded Sonny Perdue.

As it opens more operations, USDA relies on staff to work without pay

Federal meat inspectors are reporting to work without pay during the partial government shutdown, said an industry trade group on Wednesday, as the USDA called on 9,700 furloughed FSA employees to reopen offices nationwide today to serve farmers and ranchers.

Advocates urge Congress not to raise FSA loan limit

A coalition of 19 farm and advocacy groups and lenders wrote a letter to members of Congress Wednesday urging them not to raise the cap on loans issued by the Farm Service Agency.

Is the check in the mail?

With commodity prices and farm income in a slump, Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts called on USDA to send subsidy checks to growers due on their 2014 crops. "According to law, payments to eligible producers ... were to start on October 1 or as soon as practicable," said the Kansas Republican in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.