Delgado Introduces Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act to Support Family Farmers Suffering during COVID-19 Crisis

April 29, 2020
Press Release

RHINEBECK, NY – Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19), along with Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Peter Welch (VT-at large) and Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) introduced the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, legislation to support upstate New York’s small family farms by providing one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000 for farmers who hold existing loan obligations with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This bill will help keep farms open during the COVID-19 pandemic and support the nation’s food supply.

“New York’s 19th Congressional District is home to nearly 5,000 farm operations that are essential to our upstate way of life. The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act provides a critical lifeline for our small farmers through debt forgiveness across three types of USDA FSA loans -- Direct Farm Operating loans, Direct Farm Ownership loans and Emergency loans -- allowing more small farmers to remain operational during COVID-19 and continue to support our local food supply and farm economy. I urge the House to take up this legislation as soon as possible to get our small farmers urgently needed relief,” said Rep. Antonio Delgado.

“Hudson Valley’s farmers feed our communities and power our local economy. This global pandemic has dramatically disrupted their ability to sell, pushing many small farmers further into debt or forcing them to the brink of closure. This bill will bring relief to the farmers who need it most, keep our farms open during this crisis, and protect jobs here in the Hudson Valley and across America,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18).

“I’m proud to cosponsor the Relief for America's Small Farmers Act because our local and regional food producers urgently need aid from the federal government. Small farms are critical to food security and are the economic engine of rural communities. This bill will help small farmers who have not benefitted from previous trade bailouts and other relief packages to weather this unexpected downturn,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01), an organic farmer and member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and House Agriculture Committee.

“Farmers are the backbone of our rural economy and stewards of our landscape. The coronavirus pandemic has caused sectors of the economy that drove demand for agricultural products to shut down entirely, forcing farmers to face unprecedented challenges. This bill will help family and local farms in these unforeseen and challenging times by providing direct, one-time relief. For generations, our local farmers have done so much to provide us with a consistent supply of high-quality goods. They need our support and I hope the House will take up and pass this bill immediately,” said Rep. Peter Welch (VT-AL).

As schools, businesses, and restaurants temporarily shutter because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, America’s farmers have seen a near total disruption of the supply chain. Limited domestic and international markets have caused a surplus of product for upstate farmers, and some have been forced to destroy their crop or dump milk. Many farmers have struggled to access Small Business Administration loans, and support programs funded through the CARES Act have not yet been implemented by the USDA. Since 2012, over 2,000 farms ceased operation in the state. Net farm income has dropped by nearly half since 2013 and farm bankruptcies are at an eight-year high. New York is home to over 33,000 farms, which support over 200,000 jobs in the state. According to the USDA, 98% of farms in New York are family owned. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Background on the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act:

The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act will:

Provide direct relief to small farmers to help alleviate crippling debt.

  • According to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), farmers across the country received more than $2.6 billion in Direct Farm Operating and Direct Farm Ownership Loans in FY19. This bill will provide a one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000 across three types of USDA FSA loans: Direct Farm Operating Loans, Direct Farm Ownership Loans, and Emergency Loans.

Protect our most vulnerable farmers

  • While farmers of all sizes are struggling, it is our small farmers who are suffering the most. Farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $300,000 or less over the previous 5 years will be eligible for this debt relief.

Help our farmers get back on their feet

  • This bill is designed to help farmers get back on their feet and continue farming. It will offer a one-time debt forgiveness, and will provide a one year window for farmers to apply for the relief. Farmers benefiting from this debt relief must continue to be actively engaged in farming for at least 2 years after receiving the loan forgiveness.

The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act is supported by farmers and farmer advocacy organizations:

“Small farmers have always been the mainstay of rural America, yet for years they have struggled to survive on prices consistently below their cost of production.  As farmers struggle, so do the rural communities they live in and the local businesses they support.

“Including the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act in future COVID-19 legislation will help farm and ranch families survive the loss of markets and give them the opportunity to move beyond the dismal incomes they had even prior to the pandemic. The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act can, by providing desperately needed debt relief, support producers economically through this crisis and strengthen the resilience of our local food systems. To re-establish the sustainability of rural America we must mitigate the increased hardship this crisis has placed upon our farmers and ranchers,” said Jim Goodman, Board President of the National Family Farm Coalition. 

“In this very challenging moment for farmers and ranchers across the United States, this bill offers debt relief to small producers who are diligently working to feed their communities. It provides a major step towards financial stability for the next generation in agriculture and a way to keep them on the land and in production,” said Sanaz Arjomand, Federal Policy Director at the National Young Farmers Coalition.

"For more than six years, farmers and ranchers across the country have endured catastrophic price declines, volatile trade disputes, historic natural disasters, and now unprecedented challenges sparked by COVID-19. At Farm Aid, we hear everyday from farmers struggling to endure these threats to their livelihoods, homes, and land, so many of whom are left out of federal farm policy. The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act provides much needed and well-deserved debt relief for the farmers and ranchers who continue to feed us, steward our land, and bolster our local economies. It is the first essential step we must take to support the farmers who are selflessly galvanizing to bring fresh, healthy food to communities in need during today’s crisis. Farm Aid is grateful for Representative Maloney’s leadership in supporting the diverse small farms of America, and we will do everything we can to ensure passage of this bill so that no farmer loses their farm or home from this unprecedented moment,” said Alicia Harvie, Advocacy & Farmer Services Director at Farm Aid.

The bill is also supported by Family Farm Action, Rural Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA), American Grassfed Association, Food & Water Action, the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, and the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment.