March 05, 2009

Feingold, Kohl, Gillibrand, Brown Call for Farm Foreclosure Assistance

Senators Urge Administration To Require Banks That Received Bail-Out Funds to Work With Farmers to Restructure Loans

U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are leading a Senate effort urging the Obama administration to help reduce farm foreclosures as prices for farmers have dropped dramatically in relation to the troubled economy. 

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the senators and fourteen of their colleagues called for additional requirements for banks and other financial institutions that have taken federal bailout funds to work with farmers to restructure farm loans to help keep them in their homes and businesses. 

These conditions would mirror requirements that are already in place on farm loans supported by the USDA Farm Service Agency and the requirements being developed for home loans held by these same lenders that have taken bailout funds.  As Americans and businesses are feeling the impact of the current economic troubles, farmers across the country are particularly hard hit, with dairy prices and other farm prices having plummeted in recent months.

"The global economic crisis has hurt Wisconsin's farmers and our communities that depend on them," Feingold said.  "Farms are both homes and businesses for many families in Wisconsin and it is critical these families are receiving the resources they need.  I was glad to support funding in the economic recovery legislation to provide additional direct farm loans and cover some of the costs of restructuring loans.  Requiring the firms that received a federal bailout to work with farmers to restructure farm loans to avoid foreclosure is the right thing to do and will help provide a firewall against further negative impacts on the rural economy."

"Farming is never easy, but more and more rural families are struggling to survive in these tough times.  We need to think creatively about how to help these homes and businesses weather this economy, and we should be sure that our rural communities are given the same consideration as the banks who were helped when they needed it," Kohl said.

"Family farms are the backbone of New York's economy," said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture and Nutrition Committee. "From Colden in Western New York to Calverton on Long Island, families across New York have been hit hard by the economic crisis. While we are trying to keep New Yorkers in their homes, it is vital that we also help families keep their farms. Giving farmers to ability to restructure their loans is an important part of our economic growth."

Joining Feingold, Kohl, Gillibrand, and Brown on the letter are Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Carl Levin (D-MI), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Over 60 agriculture organizations across the country are supporting the senators' efforts, including 55 organizations that sent a similar letter calling for more assistance for farm foreclosures earlier in the week.

The effort to encourage the Departments of Agriculture and Treasury to take action on this critical issue has the support of over 60 organizations including Dairy Farmers of America, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Midwest Dairy Coalition, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) and the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.