WASHINGTON — Amidst the sharpest decline in the farm economy in well over a decade, National Farmers Union and a coalition of 21 prominent farm groups are urging Congress to provide a strong safety net for family farmers and ranchers.
In a letter to U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the coalition called on the committees to provide adequate resources for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA), so that it can adequately meet high demand for farm loans and provide mediation services to struggling producers.
“Farmers and ranchers have been facing difficult economic conditions for several years,” noted the coalition letter. “ With the farm economy only expected to worsen, access to credit, specifically credit provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Farm Loan programs, is critical.”
The coalition thanked appropriators for providing additional funding for FSA’s Farm Loan programs in 2017, noting that the increase was an important and necessary step in ensuring access to credit.
“The outlook for 2017 grain and livestock prices appears to be no better than in 2016, likely meaning FSA loans will be even more vital to the financial viability of farm and ranch operations. The added funding will help FSA avoid backlog issues faced last year and during the beginning of this year.”
But the group stressed that there is no end in sight to the depressed farm economy, and loan demand is expected to be as high, if not higher, than last year.
“Metrics associated with farm health, including debt to asset ratios, working capital, and cash flow, are projected to weaken further in 2017 or stay even from last year,” noted the letter. “As a result, we expect demand for new or revised loans to at least match 2016, which was a record year for the portfolio. In order to meet demand, FSA will need additional resources for FY-2018.”
“Low commodity prices have reduced net farm income by over 50 percent in the past four years, and FSA loans serve as an important lifeline for many distressed producers. Inadequately funding FSA would be a disservice to our hardworking farmers and ranchers, who are dedicated to feeding our nation and the world.
“We appreciate your attention in this matter and stand ready to provide any needed assistance,” concluded the letter.
— National Farmers Union