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Family-farm groups ask for share of economic relief funds

As funds for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act are debated, farm advocates from across the country joined together Monday to ask that Congress consider family farmers.

"Right now, a strong U.S. economy needs the family farmers we have and needs more farmers on the land," said non-profit Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. "When family farmers thrive, local economies thrive, and that's a common-sense approach to rebuilding our country."

In 2008, the agriculture sector is projected to have contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. The Rural Policy Research Institute, based in Columbia, Mo., estimates that the sector employs 14 percent of the total workforce and accounts for nearly 5 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product.

The National Family Farm Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International USA, Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Missouri Rural Crisis Center joined Farm Aid in making recommendations that TARP and ARRA include regulations and mandates that address the needs of farmers and ranchers.

Here are a few of their requests:

  • As a condition for receiving TARP or any federal funds, banks providing credit to farmers must allow for loan restructuring when farmers are unable to make scheduled payments due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • Extend farm loan restructuring programs to farmers and ranchers who are already at least 60 days behind in their scheduled loan payments.
  • Increase the capacity of FSA to respond to the credit needs of farmers caught between high input costs and low commodity prices by increasing appropriations for direct and guaranteed loans under ARRA.
  • Include in the final legislation mandates to ensure that direct or guaranteed farm loans are not used for construction or expansion of specialized hog or poultry production facilities.
  • Require that USDA quickly implement disaster-program funding that was approved in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide payments to those farmers affected by natural disasters in 2007 and 2008.
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