Agriculture groups call for changes to disaster loan program
Thirty-eight agriculture groups and businesses sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting changes to the Paycheck Protection Program. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sectors received only 1.3% of the original $349 billion in approved funding.
The letter states, “several issues remain with the Small Business Administration’s implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program that have made it challenging for farmers and ranchers to participate.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation is among the organizations that signed the letter.
“The CARES Act is a lifeline for farmers and ranchers struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “COVID-19 has created an unprecedented impact on almost all markets, and farmers are struggling to pay employees while paying their own bills. As lawmakers consider replenishing the disaster loan program, it’s crucial that they ensure agriculture is given equal access to assistance.”
“Federal relief is only as good as the access that people in need have to it.” said Marty Smith, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “Unfortunately for agricultural producers, accessing the first round of Paycheck Protection Program funding proved to be nearly impossible, with less than 2% of these loans reaching our industry. Hopefully the second round of PPP will be more accessible to family ranchers and farmers, and more equitably distributed so we can continue working to feed America during this crisis.”
The list of priorities for the next round of SBA loans includes:
Expedite Approval of Applications for Rural Lenders
Most of agriculture’s primary lenders have not administered SBA loans.
Allow Farm Credit institutions to access the newly established PPP set-aside for small financial lenders.
Guidance for Agricultural Applicants
Allow profits from farm equipment trades and breeding livestock and other IRS forms that determine annual profits to be included in the calculation of income for PPP.
Define “Primary Place of Residence” in SBA Statute
The Primary Place of Residence should be defined to clearly include H-2A guest workers, as many of these workers spend over half the year in the United States.
Rent and Utilities
Rental payments for all business-related items should be included in the SBA loan program.
Eligibility Cap for Agriculture
An increase in SBA’s eligibility cap for employees is essential for family farms and agricultural processors that employ more than 500 employees to continue operating and paying their employees.