“FSA programs and loans are critical to America’s farmers and ranchers, and we want to continue our work with customers while taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” says Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce according to a statement released on March 26.
“We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs and cash flow through times like this. FSA is working to find and use every option and flexibility to provide producers with credit options and other program benefits.”
During the COVID-19 crisis agricultural producers will be able to continue working with FSA staff regarding most agency services including program signups, loan servicing and other important actions.
The loan-marketing process has been relaxed and FSA is adding some flexibility to service direct and guaranteed loans as needed for producers.
FSA Service Centers are remaining open for business, but only by phone appointment. The agency is assuring producers that delivery staff will continue to man the office to work with them through email, online tools and over the phone.
According to the release, continued services include:
- Farm loans;
- Commodity loans;
- Farm Storage Facility Loan program;
- Disaster assistance programs, including signup for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (this includes producers now eligible because of losses due to drought and excess moisture in 2018 and 2019);
- Safety net programs, including 2020 signup for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs;
- Conservation programs; and
- Acreage reports.
Farm loan-making process
The FSA has added more flexibility to the loan process by:
- Extending the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications;
- Preparing Direct Loans documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings. Once those searches are complete, FSA would close the loan; and
- Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those lien searches, filings and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings.
Deadlines also being extended for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers.
The agency will also temporarily suspend loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will make the determination whether to stop foreclosures and evictions on accounts under its jurisdiction.
Guarantee lenders can self-certify, providing their borrowers with:
- Subsequent-year operating loan advances on lines of credit;
- Emergency advances on lines of credit.
FSA will consider guaranteed lender requests for:
- Temporary payment deferral consideration when borrowers do not have a feasible plan reflecting that family living expenses, operating expenses and debt can be repaid; and
- Temporary forbearance consideration for borrowers on loan liquidation and foreclosure actions.
FSA will be accepting additional forms and applications by facsimile or electronic signature. Some services are also available online to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in.
FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.