Farm Credit struggles to implement Paycheck Protection Program
Farm Credit system lenders “have experienced extraordinary challenges” accessing the Small Business Administration’s computer system to help farmers use the Paycheck Protection Program established by Congress to address the economic problems with the coronavirus pandemic, Mark Hayes, a spokesman for the Farm Credit Council, said April 10.
As of midday, about a dozen Farm Credit institutions have made it through the SBA process, are taking applications from customers and are working in the SBA lending system to get approvals for loans for their customers, Hayes said.
“We expect more Farm Credit institutions to get final SBA approval across the next week and begin working with customers to access PPP loans,” he added. “Reports, however, indicate that SBA likely will run short of funding for the program sometime mid-to-late-next week.”
“While SBA officials are doing their best to get Farm Credit institutions approved, most remain unable to access the system to begin taking applications from customers. We are seeing improvements in this situation every day,” Hayes said.
“None of our comments should be taken as criticism of SBA. The agency is working tirelessly and in good faith. The task before them is enormous, and there were bound to be significant obstacles and delays.”
Hayes noted that, while working through the SBA access process, “many Farm Credit institutions are racing to reinvent their own lending systems to handle loans guaranteed by SBA and begin taking applications from customers.”
“Other Farm Credit lenders are working to identify an outside vendor with deep experience in SBA lending that could support Farm Credit customers. In many cases, Farm Credit lenders that have not yet been approved to begin lending are advising customers to try applying through the commercial bank with whom they have a depository relationship. In short, we’re doing everything we can to get access to SBA’s PPP for our customers.”
Hayes added, “Farm Credit institutions are relationship lenders. They pride themselves on their ability to have deep insight into their customers’ needs and to tailor financing solutions to meet them.”
“While that approach has proven beneficial to our customers for more than 100 years, it means that many of our internal systems simply are not designed to process the thousands of SBA loan applications that we expect farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to generate. Even once Farm Credit institutions receive final approval from SBA, our capacity to transact will be limited. Again, we will do the best we can to make sure our customers get access to the program.”