US Ag Sec offers agri loan assistance
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is undertaking an unprecedented effort to use the department's administrative flexibility to provide relief to individuals and businesses in struggling agriculture industries.
Vilsack has ordered USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency to use all available means to help producers, processors and other small businesses who have been hit by worsening economic conditions.
"The Obama Administration is committed to doing everything it can to help families and businesses in agriculture to get through these tough economic times," said Vilsack. "Not only is this effort critical to restoring economic prosperity in America's rural communities, it is essential to ensure that Americans continue to have access to a safe, secure, and healthy food supply."
The assistance includes Farm Service Agency's increased effort to provide loan assistance to livestock producers and the Rural Development Business and Industry Loan program which has been structured to provide relief to processors and other small businesses in agriculture industries.
Additionally, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) is carrying out a number of actions to ease some of the stress being experienced by America's livestock producers, including:
• Educating producers in all agricultural sectors about the loan and servicing options available to them and utilising all existing authorities to maximise relief available to both new and existing borrowers.
• FSA sent a letter to direct borrowers outlining the options and tools that are available to help ease any financial stress they may be experiencing. The letter encourages borrowers to contact their local county offices where loan officers can offer individualized financial and farm planning expertise. Options available include rescheduling, reamortisation, deferral, and in extreme cases, reduction of debt.
• Encouraging guaranteed lenders to use all options available to assist FSA guaranteed borrowers. FSA regulations allow lenders to undertake a variety actions to help struggling producers, including:
• Lowering payments on chattel loans through debt rescheduling;
• Lowering payments on real estate loans through reamortisation;
• Deferring part of scheduled payments; and
• Writing down part of a delinquent loan.
• Increasing awareness among producers of loans available through FSA county offices around the country:
• Producers can apply for direct operating loans of up to $300,000 at 3.125% and direct farm ownership loans up to $300,000 at 5%. Direct operating loans can be used for most farm related expenses including refinancing debt, while farm ownership loans can only be used to purchase or improve real estate;
• County loan officers can also work to help secure guaranteed operating and farm ownership loans up to $1,094,000 at a rate negotiated with the lender. The first scheduled installment of these loans can be deferred for up to 18 months or can be interest only if needed. The terms of each loan are determined on a case by case basis.
More information about USDA's Recovery Act efforts is available at www.usda.gov/recovery , and the Federal government's efforts on the Recovery Act is available at www.recovery.gov .
More information about USDA Rural Development can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov , and about FSA at www.fsa.usda.gov.
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