Senators: Halt farm foreclosures
WASHINGTON (DTN) – Wisconsin Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl and 17 other senators are urging President Barack Obama to force banks to work with hard-pressed dairy farmers and other financially troubled agriculture producers to restructure their loans rather than go into foreclosure.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the senators asked that the administration force 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. Banks that have made loans that are guaranteed by the Farm Service Agency have already been required to work with farmers that have troubled loans, but the senators are asking that the same standard that is being applied to home loans be applied to farm loans.
“The global economic crisis has hurt Wisconsin’s farmers and our communities that depend on them,” Feingold said in a news release. “Farms are both homes and businesses for many families in Wisconsin, and it is critical that these families receive 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.”
The senators noted that the dairy industry “has been especially hard hit” because the prices of wholesale dairy products and milk recently plummeted by upwards of 40 percent, that wheat, corn, soybean, beef cattle and hog prices are also lower and several poultry processing plants have shut down. “If these low prices and market shocks continue, farms nationwide across many segments of agriculture will soon have difficulty meeting their loan payments,” the senators said.
Joining Feingold and Kohl on the letter were Kristin Gillibrand, D-NY; Sherrod Brown, D-OH; Michael Bennet, D-CO; Jeff Bingaman, D-NM; Bob Casey, D-PA; Susan Collins, R-ME; Kay Hagan, D-NC; Tim Johnson, D-SD; 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.
The senators noted that more than 60 agriculture organizations have also asked the Obama administration to force the banks to work with troubled farmers. The groups include Dairy Farmers of America, the 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.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at email@example.com