02.17.11

Leahy Backs Ending Term Limits On Guaranteed Farm Loans

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Feb. 17) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) joined as a cosponsor in introducing legislation Wednesday to eliminate term limits on guaranteed loans from the Farm Service Agency to many borrowers across the nation.  If enacted, the bill (S.368) – whose chief sponsor is Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) -- will help more farmers and ranchers receive the help they need to maintain their farms and continue to support and expand their operations.

The Farm Service Agency provides much-needed financial support to America’s farmers and ranchers through direct loans and loan guarantees.  In many cases FSA serves as the lender of last resort, helping farmers to stay afloat in the face of stormy economic times.  Many Vermont farmers continue to benefit from FSA loans, and FSA supports important programs for Vermont, such as the Milk Income Loss Contract Program.

The 1996 Farm Bill introduced term limits on the loans provided by FSA, which imposed restrictions on the number of years an individual or operation could receive financial assistance.  In several subsequent bills, Congress has waived the implementation of the guaranteed loan term limit, deciding that the limit is too inflexible for many struggling or growing farms.  Most recently, the term limit was waived in the 2008 Farm Bill.  Last December, the waiver from the 2008 Farm Bill expired, forcing the implementation of guaranteed term limits.  As a result, more than 4000 borrowers became ineligible for loan guarantees.

Leahy warns that the return of term limits already is harming many farm families.  “Thousands of American farmers have lost their financial stability because of these term limits, and many more will become ineligible this year if Congress does not act soon.  I am committed to working with Senator Kohl and other senators on both sides of the aisle to make sure that this commonsense provision, which has no impact on spending, goes into effect so farmers can count on it.”

Several organizations have endorsed the bill, including the American Bankers Association, the American Soybean Association, the Farm Credit Council, Farmer Mac, Independent Community Bankers of America, the Midwest Dairy Coalition, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Family Farm Coalition, the National Farmers Union, and the National Milk Producers Federation.

Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

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