Senators ask USDA to explain loan program disruptions

Published on: Oct 21, 2013

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to explain recent decisions regarding marketing assistance loans that are creating financial uncertainty and hardships for farmers and businesses, including what will amount to a one-month delay in processing loans.

Fourteen Senators, led by Sen. Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, have written a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that requests explanations for the Sept. 30 decision to apply a 5.1% sequester on marketing assistance loans made after Oct. 1, which could result in price reductions for peanut and cotton yields.  The letter also asks the USDA to explain the rationale behind the timing of the loan processing delay.

“The decision to apply sequestration and delay loan processing just as harvest across much of the Sunbelt is gearing up is particularly damaging because it was made without warning,” the Senators wrote.  “This means growers, marketing cooperatives, private merchandizing firms, and agribusinesses were unable to make alternative plans to mitigate the financial hardship imposed by the decisions.”

“We call to your attention our constituents’ concerns about the lack of details and transparency in the USDA’s last-minute announcement.  Most notable is the fact that the news release did not specify whether loan redemptions would also be impacted by sequestration.  This will have a direct bearing on how growers, marketing cooperatives, private merchandizing firms, and agribusinesses adjust their current and future marketing strategy,” the Senators wrote.

The 14-day loan processing delay to allow for software updates was scheduled to begin Oct. 1 but was delayed during the 16-day partial government shutdown.  The USDA indicated during the shutdown that the 14-day software upgrade would commence when the government reopened.

In addition to Cochran, the letter was signed by Senators Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), ranking member on the Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Markets, Trade and Risk Management, John Boozman (R., Ark.), Richard Burr (R., N.C.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), Mary Landrieu (D., La.), Mark Pryor (D., Ark.), Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), David Vitter (R., La.), and Roger Wicker (R., Miss.).