WASHINGTON — Due to the national public health emergency caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today, January 27, the temporary suspension of collections on overdue debt and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Direct Farm Loan and Storage Facility Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency. USDA will temporarily suspend non-judicial foreclosures, debt set-offs, or wage garnishments, and will refer foreclosures to the Department of Justice; and USDA will work with the US Attorney’s Office to stop foreclosures and judicial evictions of accounts previously referred to the Department of Justice. In addition, USDA has extended the timeframes for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including consideration of loan deferment for delinquent and financially distressed borrowers. Additionally, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to help serve their customers.
Today’s announcement by USDA builds on previous actions taken by the department to ease financial hardship. According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers, roughly 10% of all borrowers, are eligible for the relief announced today. Overall, FSA makes loans to more than 129,000 farmers, ranchers, and producers.
“USDA and the Biden Administration are committed to providing relief and support to farmers, ranchers and producers of all backgrounds and financial statuses, including ensuring producers have access to temporary debt relief,” said Robert Bonnie, deputy chief of personnel of the Office of the Secretary. “Not only is USDA suspending the referral of adverse actions that can lead to foreclosure and debt collection, but we are also working with the Justice and Treasury Departments to suspend any actions already referred to the appropriate agency. Additionally, we are evaluating ways to improve and address agriculture-related debt with the intent of keeping farmers on their farms earning living expenses, meeting emergency needs, and maintaining cash flow.”
The temporary suspension is in effect until further notice and is expected to continue while the COVID-19 national disaster declaration is in effect.
The USDA Farm Service Agency offers several different loans to growers, which fall into two main categories:
Secured loans are made and serviced by commercial lenders, such as banks, the Farm Credit System, credit unions, and other non-traditional lenders. The FSA guarantees the lender’s loan against loss, up to 95 percent.
Direct loans are made and administered by FSA using funds from the federal government.
The most common loan types are Farm Ownership, Farm Operation, and Farm Storage Facility Loans, with microloans for each:
Farm Ownership: Helps growers buy or expand a farm or ranch, build a new building or improve an existing one, pay closing costs, and pay for soil and water conservation and protection.
Farm Operation: Helps producers purchase livestock and equipment and pay for minor real estate repairs and annual operating expenses.
Agricultural Storage Facility Loans are made directly to growers for the construction of dry or cold storage and include mobile storage and handling equipment, such as refrigerated trucks.
Microloans: Direct Farm Ownership, Operating Loans, and Farm Storage Facility Loans have a streamlined application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche-type operations.
FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and any temporary changes in farm loan terms and available loan servicing options. For Service Center contact information, visit farmer.gov/coronavirus. For information about the service, go to farmer.gov.