Agriculture must be included in disaster loan program
Thirty-one agriculture organizations and businesses are calling on the U.S. Small Business Administration to include agricultural businesses in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, as intended by Congress in the CARES Act.
The notice on the SBA website currently states applicants must certify they are “not an agricultural enterprise (e.g., farm), other than an aquaculture enterprise, agricultural cooperative or nursery.” Yet, the actual text of the CARES Act does not exclude agriculture producers and states all businesses with fewer than 500 employees can participate in the program.
In a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza, the agriculture groups wrote, “Agricultural producers and businesses are critical elements of this nation’s economy and food system. Prior to COVID-19, farmers and ranchers had already experienced a drastic 24-percent decline in net farm income from highs experienced just six years ago. With the further downturn in the economy, agricultural businesses are at risk of closure and may be required to lay off employees.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation is among the organizations that signed the letter and AFBF President Zippy Duvall said, “Farmers and ranchers are the critical first link in America’s food supply chain. The pandemic’s impact on agriculture is coming in waves due to dramatic changes in demand, falling commodity prices and supply challenges. Farmers must have access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, as Congress intended, to ensure America continues to have access to healthy, affordable food.”
President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, Jim Mulhern, said, “We must ensure that all essential agricultural businesses can continue operating during the coronavirus crisis, including those in dairy, which is critical to consumers. Congress was clear in the CARES Act that it intends for agriculture to be able to access EIDLs, and NMPF thanks members of Congress for their work to ensure dairy farmers can continue to provide wholesome, nutritious food to Americans as we navigate this pandemic. We now call on the Small Business Administration to implement the EIDL provisions in the CARES Act as intended by Congress, allowing dairy farmers to access the program.”
Brian Kuehl, director of federal affairs for KCoe Isom, added, “We think Congress clearly intended to include ag businesses in the emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The Small Business Administration should make that clear as soon as possible. For heavily impacted ag businesses, the ability to secure this type of financing will decide whether they can stay in business.” ❖