National Farmers Union reacts to USDA debt relief action

National Farmers Union
Farm Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. — To ease mounting financial pressures, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Jan. 27 that it will temporarily suspend past-due debt collections and foreclosures for farmers borrowing under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs while also offering flexibilities under the Guaranteed Loan Program. Additionally, the agency plans to halt foreclosures and evictions that are already underway. Approximately 12,000 farmers, representing 10 percent of Farm Service Agency borrowers, will be eligible for this assistance.

The announcement comes as a relief to National Farmers Union, which has been pushing legislators and administration officials to provide family farmers and ranchers with the support they need to withstand the added challenges caused by the pandemic. In a news release statement, NFU President Rob Larew lauded the action, saying that it will be particularly beneficial to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers:

“With so many factors beyond their control, farmers know to be prepared for a bad year here and there. But it hasn’t just been just one bad year because of the pandemic — it’s been five bad years because of trade wars, climate change, and stubbornly low prices. Even the most established farmers may not have the reserves to cope with this kind of enduring financial strain — and beginning and historically underserved farmers almost certainly do not.

“As a country, we really can’t afford to lose these farmers. The agriculture industry has already experienced rapid consolidation over the last several decades, to the detriment of rural communities and national food security. The pandemic could have accelerated this trend — but fortunately, the USDA’s ongoing support will likely prevent the worst-case outcome. By suspending debt collections and foreclosures, the agency will help struggling farmers stay on their land and continue growing food for their fellow Americans.”