U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is among 43 senators who are urging President Donald Trump’s administration to extend financial relief for the nation’s farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter from Friday addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the senators asked that recently announced flexibilities on farm loans be made permanent for the duration of the pandemic.
The Farm Service Agency announced temporary flexibilities on farm loans on March 26 that the senators said will help alleviate cash flow concerns that might play into important business decisions.
“Americans always depend on our nation’s farmers to grow the food, fuel, and fiber that we all need, but that reliance becomes much more pronounced in times of crisis,” the senators wrote. “To provide additional support for those whose operations are being affected by the coronavirus, we urge you to consider making emergency measures such as deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance, and a full suspension of all current and pending foreclosure actions effective for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery.”
The senators also urged Perdue to ensure that farmers have enough access to credit to avoid disruption in the country’s food supply chain. They asked the USDA to make additional emergency measures for farmers, which include deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance and the suspension of current foreclosure actions.
The senators asked Perdue in the letter for more information on how the USDA will communicate those flexibilities to producers, the criteria it will use to determine whether producers receive temporary payment deferrals or forbearance and how long those extensions will be in effect for producers responding to loan servicing actions.
Another request in the letter was for the USDA to prioritize existing programs used to resolve loan and credit issues between farmers and lenders, naming the proven Agricultural Mediation Program as one of them.