October 18, 2022
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Zaks
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Washington, DC, October 18, 2022 –– Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the phased implementation of Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides $3.1 billion in funding for USDA to provide relief for distressed borrowers with at-risk agricultural operations. Nearly $800 million has already been disbursed to distressed borrowers with direct or guaranteed loans administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauds USDA for expeditiously acting to deliver needed relief for economically distressed borrowers at the direction of Congress,” said Mike Lavender, NSAC Interim Policy Director, adding, “This relief is a critical step to stabilize farms and farm families at particular financial risk, including small- and medium-scale and diversified farmers, especially those historically underserved by USDA. This announcement creates the opportunity for these farmers and ranchers to begin building generational wealth and investing in the future.”
Of the roughly $800 million already provided to farms, USDA announced $600 million was paid directly to the accounts of 11,000 borrowers with qualifying delinquent loans. Notably, $200 million was used to resolve any remaining debt for 2,100 borrowers whose debt was referred to the Treasury Department, which means these farmers will not face garnishment of Federal benefit payments including tax refunds and social security.
USDA also announced a concierge process to manually assist 1,600 farm loan borrowers with about $330 million in more complex debt on a case-by-case basis, including those facing bankruptcy and foreclosure. Aid will vary according to the particular circumstances of each case. In addition, up to 14,000 other financially distressed borrowers with cash flow challenges may be eligible to apply for assistance to avoid delinquency via a second case-by-case process established under existing FSA loan servicing criteria.
“The debt relief provisions announced today are historic actions in scale and scope which establish a foundational precedent to aid underserved farmers who have long trod an uncertain path,” said Billy Hackett, NSAC Policy Specialist. “In addition to our members who are working daily to assist economically distressed borrowers, NSAC is grateful for the leadership of partners including the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Rural Coalition, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Farmers’ Legal Action Group, and others at the forefront of these efforts. We look forward to working in partnership to ensure eligible producers receive promised aid and to support FSA in the continued rollout of debt assistance programs under the mandate of Congress and using existing authorities,” added Hackett.
Last week, the USDA also announced next steps for a separate provision of the Inflation Reduction Act, Section 22007. This provision included $2.2 billion to aid farmers and ranchers who have experienced discrimination when navigating FSA farm loan programs. USDA opened a public comment period to inform the process to determine who may be deemed eligible for aid on the basis of discrimination. That comment period closes on November 14.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net