Beginning Farmer Hearing Witnesses Tell of Loan Hurdles, Looming Economy Problems

Farmers and Ag economists told the House Agriculture Committee, excessive FSA loan requirements, discrimination and worsening economic problems, are all making it harder to get into and stay in farming.

He struggled despite FSA and Farm Credit Illinois loans to buy shares in his late grandparents’ farm, but it wasn’t enough, forcing Decatur, Illinois’ Adam Brown, testifying for the Illinois Farm Bureau to turn to NRCS for more help.

“The unwillingness of NRCS to review my application to CSP because of an administrative paperwork error, remains a singular source of frustration and speaks to the inefficiencies of government that oftentimes prevent new and beginning farmers from gaining access to the programs they need until they have their feet under them.”

Brown finally qualified for the Conservation Stewardship Program, but telling of tight margins and liquidation sales almost brought him to tears. “The most painful sale being that of the first tractor that my dad ever rode on, a 1950 Ford Ferguson T-20, which brought in $1,480. And while that was a difficult and emotional step to take, the survival of my farm for the next generation is my top priority, just like the generation that passed it on to me.”

But that challenge could soon become even tougher, as roaring inflation, interest rates, a possible recession and war threaten already thin margins. Kansas Federal Reserve Bank Vice-President Nathan Kauffman says uncertainty is “high” for Ag’s economic outlook.

“Although economic conditions in agriculture have recovered the past two-years, and credit conditions have remained solid, the pace of improvement may be slowing. Demand for loans in the Kansas City Fed district is expected to rise notably and capital spending is expected to decline in the coming months for the first time since 2020. Numerous contacts have pointed to large increases in costs associated with fertilizer, fuel and labor, as primary drivers of higher expenses and a less favorable industry outlook.”

Illinois’ Adam Brown says the next farm bill must ensure that all who qualify for a farm loan can get one, and that operating and ownership loans keep pace with today’s rising cost of farming.

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