The USDA is providing nearly $800 million in credit relief, with more to come

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More than 13,000 financially distressed US farmers and ranchers with qualifying loans have received nearly $800 million in assistance under the Anti-Inflation Act, US Department of Agriculture officials said today.

The relief efforts are part of the $3.1 billion that Congress has allocated in the IRA to expedite assistance to distressed borrowers of direct or guaranteed loans administered by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Around 11,000 defaulting borrowers had their accounts updated and their next loan installment paid. Another 2,100 borrowers who had been foreclosed but still had outstanding debts were also forgiven. “The funding … will help our farmers keep farming going and offer a fresh start to growers in challenging positions,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

In the future, the USDA plans to administer up to an additional $500 million. The agency will provide $66 million in separate automatic payments using COVID-19 pandemic tools to support up to 7,000 direct borrowers who have used the FSA’s disaster-aside option to make scheduled payments during the pandemic to defer to the end of the loans. The USDA is also beginning two new case-by-case processes for farm loan borrowers. In the first procedure, the FSA will examine arrears in 1,600 complex cases, including cases where borrowers face bankruptcy or foreclosure. The second process will use existing direct loan management criteria to speed up intervention for an estimated 14,000 financially distressed borrowers who need help to avoid delinquency.

In January 2021, the USDA suspended foreclosures and other adverse measures against direct agricultural loans due to the pandemic and encouraged guaranteed lenders to follow suit. Last week, the agency reiterated its request to allow time for all borrower support tools to be deployed before lenders take action. USDA posted Online resources for borrowers to learn more about the available help.

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