The debt relief initiative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide assistance for many socially disadvantaged farmers in California. Assistant Secretary for Administration at USDA, Osker Gonzales talked to AgNet West about some of the details of the program. The initiative is expected to provide assistance to hundreds of California farmers. Gonzales said the debt relief program is especially important for California, as agriculture is a main pillar of the state’s economy.
“USDA currently estimates that approximately 14,000 borrowers across the country meet the socially disadvantaged definition,” Gonzales explained. “Here in California, the number I was looking at earlier in terms of individual borrowers who might be eligible, was around 400 here in California alone. These would be borrowers who took out loans that are direct loans.”
The debt relief initiative for qualified individuals will address loan balances based on what was recorded on January 1, 2021. Any payments that have been made by borrowers since that date will be reimbursed in full. “The 120 percent of the payment that they will receive if they are in fact eligible represents the full cost of the loan to include 100 percent toward loan balances. The 20 percent reimbursement is available for tax liabilities and other fees associated with the payment of the debt,” said Gonzales.
USDA has already begun mailing out notices to eligible borrowers involved in the direct loan program. Gonzales noted that some farmers who have received notices have been uncertain about how the debt relief initiative is going to function. USDA will continue to engage in outreach efforts to help borrowers fully understand the program.
“It is my understanding that additional information will be sent out in different languages,” Gonzales explained. “We’re looking between June and December 31, that’s when the loan payments will occur on a rolling basis.”
Listen to the interview below.