The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be assisting thousands of farmers and ranchers by providing some debt relief. USDA announced it is temporarily suspending past-due debt collections and foreclosures for producers borrowing under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs. Non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets, and wage garnishments are also being suspended. The agency will also stop referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Not only is USDA suspending the pipeline of adverse actions that can lead to foreclosure and debt collection, we are also working with the Departments of Justice and Treasury to suspend any actions already referred to the applicable Agency,” Deputy Chief of Staff, Robert Bonnie said in a news release. “Additionally, we are evaluating ways to improve and address farm related debt with the intent to keep farmers on their farms earning living expenses, providing for emergency needs, and maintaining cash flow.”
For judicial foreclosures and evictions already sent to the DOJ, USDA will be working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop the process from moving forward. USDA is also extending deadlines and offering other flexibilities under the Guaranteed Loan Program. According to USDA, the temporary debt relief will help address financial pressures for more than 12,000 farmers. The relief will impact approximately 10 percent of all borrowers working with the Farm Service Agency.
“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,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said in a press release. “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.”