The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) helped producers address a variety of 2020 challenges. The unprecedented pandemic created turmoil throughout the entire food supply chain. COVID-19 challenges were compounded by a multitude of natural disasters such as wildfires. FSA worked with farmers and ranchers to help navigate challenges and provide assistance.
“Through this tough year, FSA continued to deliver crucial safety net, disaster assistance, farm loan and conservation programs to America’s farmers and livestock producers,” FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said in a news release. “We partner with agricultural producers to grow and expand their operations as well as weather the unpredictable, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. We’ve also spent the past year working to optimize program delivery and find better and modern ways to serve our customers.”
The social-distancing protocols forced FSA to shift their standard operations, increasing the reliance on technology to continue to provide services. FSA staff were integral to helping industry members apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. FSA also provided additional flexibilities to other programs such as its farm credit options, adjusting processing timelines, and reporting dates. Several natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and severe droughts also created problems for American producers. FSA provided farmers and ranchers with more than $212 million through a multitude of disaster assistance programs.
The series of 2020 challenges put significant strain on the finances of many U.S. farmers and ranchers. There was significant demand for financial assistance after an increase to the amount producers can borrow was made possible through the 2018 Farm Bill. FSA set a new record in 2020, obligating more than $7.5 billion in direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans. Of the total, more than $3.4 billion went to beginning farmers setting another FSA record. Marketing assistance loans and low-interest financing offerings also helped producers navigate a particularly challenging year.