USDA Announces Temporary Debt Relief for Farmers Amid Continued Pandemic
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On January 26, 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in a press release that it will temporarily suspend past-due debt collections and foreclosures for farmers borrowing under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). This debt relief is the latest addition to the loan flexibility efforts implemented by USDA since March 2020, such as broadening the Disaster Set-Aside Loan provisions and relaxing the Farm Loan-Making process.
Direct Farm Loans are made and serviced by FSA using funds from the federal government. Farm Storage Facility Loans are made directly to producers for the construction of cold or dry storage and includes handling equipment and mobile storage such as refrigerated trucks. According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers—approximately 10% of all borrowers—are eligible.
The debt relief means that USDA will temporarily suspend non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice (DOJ). USDA will also work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the DOJ. Additionally, USDA has extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. Flexibilities have also been made available to commercial lenders to assist in servicing Guaranteed Loan program customers.
The suspension will be in effect until further notice and is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.
The FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus. For loan servicing information, access farmers.gov.
For more information about other USDA COVID-19 relief programs, namely the second wave of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2), see this past blog post.