Calls on US farm debt, loan relief increases as coronavirus spreads

By PJ Huffstutter

CHICAGO, March 18 (Reuters) – U.S. ranchers are urging the Agriculture Department to let them defer or adjust government loan payments as the coronavirus hits the already struggling farm economy, the world’s largest trade group said ‘American farmers.

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s request was made in a March 17 letter outlining a wide range of concerns, from access to farm labor to supply chain concerns of the spread virus. quick. Many US economic sectors have asked for relief from the federal government.

“For many ranchers, the Farm Service Agency (USDA) loan payments are due now,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in the letter. “Can USDA consider temporary relief (such as a deferral or loan adjustment) to help growers respond to the impact of the pandemic on marketing and normal prices?”

A cattle group also asked Perdue for a coronavirus bailout, using the same fund the Trump administration used for nearly $ 30 billion in aid related to the US-China trade war.

“In short, funds and programs are needed to ensure that livestock producers and feeders who experience excessive price losses receive immediate relief,” according to the United States Cattlemen’s Association letter to Perdue, dated March 16. , which was also sent to members of Congress.

April live cattle futures fell 12% this month on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and are down 25% year-to-date.

Efforts to secure debt relief for farmers intensified this week, as the rapidly spreading virus triggers emergency lockdowns and cash injections unprecedented since World War II.

On Monday evening, the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) said government-sponsored Farm Credit System (FCS) lenders should start working with farm borrowers, possibly including debt restructuring, for those whose operations are affected by the coronavirus.

Lenders can extend loan repayment terms or relax new loan documentation terms for some borrowers, said Glen Smith, chairman of the board of directors of the national farm credit lender regulator, in a statement. .

Regulation of the system gives lenders “considerable flexibility to provide relief to borrowers affected by COVID-19” and the coronavirus outbreak, Smith said.

The FCS system is one of the primary sources of finance for U.S. farmers and accounted for over 36% of the nearly $ 402 billion in U.S. farm debt in 2018, according to the most recent USDA data. (Reporting by PJ Huffstutter in Chicago; Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Richard Chang)

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