Ag Policy Blog

New SBA Aid Package Includes Loan Fix for Farmers

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Farmers have not been able to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans but changes in the bill passed by the Senate will fix that.

The Senate passed a $484 billion coronavirus package on Tuesday that includes a provision directing the Small Business Administration to allow agricultural businesses to participate in the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has advised House members that the House may vote on the measure Thursday.

The $484 billion measure includes $310 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, including $60 billion for small lenders and community banks, $30 billion for national coronavirus testing and another $75 billion for hospitals, but not an increase in the benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the Democrats had said was a priority.

The bill includes an additional $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program as well as the provision allowing agriculture businesses to participate.

“We worked with the Senate Small Business Committee to include language in this agreement to ensure that farmers and ranchers are eligible for the EIDL program, which will provide another tool as they work to overcome economic and health challenges. Our farmers and ranchers are working hard to continue providing our nation with food, fuel and fiber, and this is one way we can help support them during this pandemic,” Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., told DTN in an email.

“We are pleased that Congress is directing the Small Business Administration to allow agricultural businesses to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans,” said Brian Kuehl, director of government and public affairs for KCoe Isom, a national agriculture accounting and consulting firm. “SBA was wrong to have excluded ag in the first place. Farmers are hurting and need access to the $10,000 emergency grants and low-interest loans under this program. We wrote to SBA three weeks ago asking that they change course, and they refused. It’s good that Congress is stepping in to fix this problem.”

The provision means ag businesses can now apply for low-interest loans through EIDL and may also qualify for the $10,000 emergency grants administered by SBA, Kuehl said.

To be eligible, ag businesses will have to show that they have been hurt by the economic downturn caused by coronavirus. The emergency grants are limited to $1,000 per employee up to a max of $10,000. Applications for the program are administered by the Small Business Administration.

USDA: Record signup for 2019 ARC, PLC; 2020 deadline approaches

Producers signed a record 1.77 million contracts for the USDA Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2019 crop year, which is more than 107% of the total contracts signed compared with a five-year average, USDA said Tuesday.

USDA also reminded producers that June 30 is the deadline to enroll in ARC and PLC for the 2020 crop year.

“Producers for several years have experienced low commodity prices, a volatile trade environment and catastrophic natural disasters,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Farmers looking to mitigate these risks recognize that ARC and PLC provide the financial protections they need to weather substantial drops in crop prices or revenues.”

Producers interested in enrolling for 2020 should contact their FSA county office. Producers must enroll by June 30 and make their one-time update to PLC payment yields by September 30.

FSA attributed the significant participation in the 2019 crop year ARC and PLC programs to increased producer interest in the programs under the 2018 farm bill and to an increase in eligible farms because of the selling and buying of farms and new opportunities for beginning farmers and military veterans with farms having 10 or fewer base acres. Enrollment for 2019 ended March 16.

USDA service centers, including FSA county offices, are open for business by phone only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will work with producers by phone and use online tools whenever possible. All service center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other service center agency are required to call their service center to schedule a phone appointment, USDA said.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

(CZ\SK)

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