RAFI-USA wholeheartedly endorses the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act to provide debt relief to small family farms. This legislation, introduced by Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Maloney last week (S. 3602, H.R.6683), would provide much-needed one-time federal debt relief for small farmers across America. Take action today and ask your legislators to support this important bill.
While all farmers are affected by the COVID-19 crisis through major disruptions of food production, transportation, and market channels, small family farmers already operating on thin margins are most at risk of losing their farms, homes, and land from the financial freefall caused by this pandemic. This further harms the rural economies and the communities they call home. Without decisive action from Congress, we will lose thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of farms and the main street businesses they support, and risk dramatic disruptions to the integrity of America’s food supply.
Trade wars, market consolidation, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters have made farms more vulnerable than at any time in the last 30 years. Small farms have been especially impacted by these factors. This legislation was important before the COVID-19 outbreak, but now is an essential lifeline. The most rapid way to ease the financial pressures on those farmers who are most at risk is forgiveness of USDA direct loan debt.Edna Rodriguez, Executive Director of RAFI-USA
Prior to the pandemic, projected medium farm income for 2020 was negative $1,8401 with most farms relying on off-farm sources of income to support household finances and to secure benefits like healthcare coverage. Farmers and ranchers have also been struggling to cope with the impact of prices below their cost of production, historic flooding in the Midwest last year, and trade disputes that further degraded prices. In many cases, federal responses to these challenges left out many small family farmers. Now, farm households are experiencing the compounding impacts of lost income from both farm and off-farm sources during the COVID crisis. The urgency of this moment cannot be stressed enough. Small family farmers are the backbone of our food system and rural economies, and they need our support in this moment of unprecedented hardship, especially while they galvanize to feed their communities.
The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act would provide direct debt relief for small farmers around the country by providing a one-time loan forgiveness of up to $250,000 across three types of USDA FSA loans: Direct Operating, Direct Farm Ownership, and Emergency Loans. Eligible farmers must have an average adjusted gross income of $300,000 or less over the previous 5 years, regardless of what they grow. Forgiveness of federally held debt is an important tool for directly assisting these farmers, most of whom have not benefited from prior farmer relief programs. Furthermore, forgiving these FSA loans allows farmers to redirect financial resources to other farm and household debts, such as private loans and credit cards.
Take action and show your support for this legislation by May 15th! Click here to email your representatives directly. And don’t forget to let them know if you’re a farmer. This legislation is an essential first step in a series of much needed financial assistance tools for farmers, in order to quickly and effectively support our food system and those who put food on our tables every day.
For a one-page summary of the the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, click here.
To read the full legislative text, click here.
To see a full list of organizations in support of the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, click here.
This post was adapted from a letter by National Family Farm Coalition, RAFI-USA, and Farm Aid.
1 USDA. “Highlights From the February 2020 Farm Income Forecast.” Updated February 25, 2020.