Delgado Leads Bipartisan Bill to Ease Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Rules Amid Farm Economy Slump
WASHINGTON (April 19, 2019) – On Thursday, Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) led House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Reps. TJ Cox (D-Calif.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), in introducing the bipartisan Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019, legislation that would ease the process of reorganizing debt through Chapter 12 bankruptcy rules. The restructuring of the rules to make more farms eligible comes amid a continued downturn in the farm economy.
“For folks in Upstate New York, farming is more than a job—it’s a way of life. And in this extremely challenging farm economy, we must come together to help our family farmers overcome years of low prices and increased market consolidation. The Family Farmer Relief Act will provide the critical restructuring and repayment flexibility these folks need to get through these hard times without permanently closing their operations,” Delgado said.
The bill, which is the House companion to legislation introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), expands the debt cap that can be covered under Chapter 12 bankruptcy from $3,237,000 to $10,000,000. The changes reflect the increase in land values, as well as the growth over time in the average size of U.S. farming operations and are meant to provide farmers additional options to manage the downturn in the farm economy. The legislation is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union.
“After years of a devastating trade war, Central Valley farmers are facing unprecedented financial challenges that put the livelihoods of thousands of families at risk. It is vital that we give our farmers the tools that they need to survive this downturn, so that the backbone of our Central Valley economy can thrive once again,” said Cox.
“The ongoing decline in farm income combined with trade fluctuations complicates the difficult financial situation facing our farmers. Just like any business, our producers need updated, flexible tools to reorganize debt. This bipartisan bill will keep more farmers in the field and farms in the family,” said Armstrong.
“As farmers face a fifth year of declining net farm incomes, many in rural South Dakota face financial challenges and the fear of foreclosure. During these difficult times, it’s vital family farms have the tools necessary to restructure debt. This common-sense bill will provide another tool for farmers to stay on the farm, continuing to do what they do best – feed our nation,” said Johnson.
“Wisconsin’s dairy products are a staple of the American economy. However, our dairy farms are suffering. A recent report shows that small farms in Wisconsin are closing permanently at a rate of two per day. Among the myriad of challenges these farmers face is difficulty restructuring debt under outdated laws,” said Representative Sensenbrenner. “I’m proud to sponsor this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to modernize our bankruptcy code which will help Wisconsin family farmers continue operating for years to come.”
“The financial choices that family farmers are faced with right now are gut-wrenching, and given the continued slump in the farm economy, this bill will give those farmers and ranchers additional options when it comes to restructuring their debt and trying to figure out a way to keep operating,” said Peterson.
The bill will now be referred to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.