At USDA forum, northern Colorado farmers decry tight credit conditions
Cindy Sidwell is worried about the future of her fourth-generation family farm that her sons Jerry and Justin Sidwell operate.
Sidwell discussed her concerns about the challenges that agricultural producers face at a U.S. Department of Agriculture forum Thursday at Aims Community College in Greeley.
USDA officials, along with staff from the offices of Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Rep. Betsy Markey, talked about the 2012 farm bill and listened to concerns from area farmers.
“We’ve gone through seven years of drought, we’ve gone through some low crop prices, and we’re just beginning to recover, but now the situation up there is at a crisis level,” Sidwell said.
The forum offered a chance for Weld County farmers and their families to discuss current USDA Farm Service Agency programs, their requirements and whether they are serving the needs of farmers in northeastern Colorado.
Participants talked about ways to cultivate the next generation as the average age of farmers continues to rise, how to provide Colorado farmers risk management tools, and natural resource concerns, such as water quantity and quality and erodible soils.
Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway told the congressional staff members many farmers and small business owners are struggling to get loans from community banks.
“As you just heard here, we can’t access capital out here,” he said. “Small businesses can’t access capital, farmers can’t access capital, and it’s killing us,” Conway said.
Katharine Ferguson, a legislative assistant for Bennet, addressed the lending concerns during the forum.
“I have been in Colorado for the last three weeks, all across the state, and the note that I write down basically after every conversation is ‘need access to credit, need access to capital,'” she said. “For me that means when I go back to D.C. on Saturday, one of the first conversations I have with my boss is to talk about how to make sure that folks here have access to the capital they need.”