FSA making preparations to deal with COVID-19 fallout
Last updated 4/17/2020 at 11:24am
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency is making preparations for the potential financial fallout of COVID-19 including making more flexible loans available to farmers and ranchers in Montana.
These efforts include extending deadlines for applicants to complete forms and respond to servicing actions, as well as making direct loan documents available even if processing is slowed down by government building closures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many farmers and ranchers want reassurance that we will be there to process their requests,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson said.
These extended deadlines will apply to loan deferral consideration for delinquent borrowers, and those who are under significant financial stress amid the pandemic.
FSA has also suspended loan accelerations and non-judicial loan foreclosures, which will instead be referred to the Department of Justice.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office may stop foreclosures and evictions altogether depending on the circumstances and its jurisdiction.
FSA will also consider requests for payment deferrals from guaranteed lenders in the event that a borrower doesn’t have a feasible plan for managing family living and/or operating expenses and can’t pay off their debt.
Guarantee lenders can also self-certify and provide their borrowers subsequent-year operating loan advances on lines of credit and can make emergency advances on lines of credit as well.
A USDA spokesperson said as of last week, there has not been a significant increase in the amount of loans being requested or the amount of money requested in those loans. They said these adjustments are being made in preparation for any financial difficulties experienced by farmers and ranchers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
USDA service centers including the FSA’s state offices in Bozeman are closed to the public, but representatives are available by phone appointment. However, the USDA will continue field work while staying in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on social distancing.
“Social distancing, teleworking from remote locations and sharing information with our clients has taken some adjustments, but it is working,” a USDA spokesperson said, “FSA’s loan staff is working to maintain processing and servicing of loan applications in a timely manner. They are trying to be proactive and creative in looking for ways to meet with producers and get the information needed, loan decisions made and loans closed.”