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Ag organizations want to make sure agriculture is included in disaster loan program

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
The US Small Business Administration is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Calling for guidance on clarifying the eligibility of agricultural businesses to participate in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program as modified by Congress in the CARES Act, 31 agriculture organizations and businesses sent a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

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, according to a press release.

In the 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 (AFBF) is among the organizations that signed the letter.

“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," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall in a press release. "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.”

"Many agricultural producers need access to this critical source of financing to help preserve their businesses and avoid further disruptions to our economy and food systems," the letter stated. 

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or carol.spaeth-bauer@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.spaethbauer.