Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just in from Washington

Farm Bureau Urges Timely Disaster Payments for 2009 Crops
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 19, 2009 – Farmers and ranchers in many areas of the nation have been hit hard by late planting and a protracted, wet harvest season and they would benefit greatly from the Agriculture Department maximizing farm bill emergency assistance programs, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Farmers are experiencing both quality and quantity losses and many still do not have crops out of the fields,” AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack.
When a disaster of this magnitude strikes, “getting help to farmers quickly can make the difference between a farmer filing for bankruptcy and holding onto the farm in hopes of passing it on to the next generation,” Stallman wrote.

In light of the situation, Stallman urged Vilsack to maximize its use of farm bill programs such as Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments and Emergency Loans to aid farmers and ranchers.
Further, Stallman requested that USDA “act as it has in the past and provide farmers and ranchers with estimated fast-tracked partial disaster payments for the 2009 crop year as quickly as possible.”

AFBF also urged USDA to consider using its authority under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act to maximize Emergency Loans program funds by offering as many farmers as possible guaranteed (rather than direct) loans.

“Guaranteeing private loans versus providing them directly will help USDA stretch limited funding to assist the largest number of producers possible in a fiscally responsible way,” Stallman said. “While guaranteed loans certainly come with additional logistical difficulties, we believe these hurdles are worth overcoming if it will allow for additional funds to reach those producers most in need.”

The 2008 farm bill included a standing disaster program for crop years 2008 to 2011, in the hopes that this program would provide more consistent and timely assistance to farmers when they are hit by natural disasters. However, this program has yet to be implemented, Stallman noted.

While agricultural credit appears to have weathered the financial downturn better than many other sectors, Farm Bureau is concerned that those producers who have faced multiple years of disaster will feel the brunt of the nation’s credit crisis as they visit their lenders to obtain operating credit for the 2010 crop year.

As harvest season draws to a close and final crop yield and quality data becomes available, AFBF will continue to monitor the situation closely and explore other options that might prove beneficial in helping farmers stay on their land, despite the disasters they have faced this year.

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