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USDA service center sign
HELP AVAILABLE: USDA farm production and conservation agencies offer financial and technical assistance with commodity, lending and disaster programs.

USDA's FSA, NRCS offices open by appointment only

Staff available to continue helping agricultural producers during social distancing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field offices are open by phone appointment only until further notice, and staff are available to continue helping agricultural producers with program signups, loan servicing and other important actions.

Additionally, FSA said it is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.

FSA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only. While program delivery staff will continue to come into to the office, they will be working with agricultural producers by phone and using email and online tools whenever possible, USDA said. All USDA Service Centers, including NRCS field offices, are not currently accessible to customers in person.

“FSA programs and loans are critical to America’s farmers and ranchers, and we want to continue our work with customers while taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” FSA administrator Richard Fordyce said. “We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs and cash flow through times like this. FSA is working to find and use every option and flexibility to provide producers with credit options and other program benefits.”

FSA is delivering programs and services, including:

  • Farm loans;
  • Commodity loans;
  • Farm Storage Facility Loan program;
  • Disaster assistance programs, including signup for the Wildfire & Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (this includes producers now eligible because of losses due to drought and excessive moisture in 2018 and 2019);
  • Safety net programs, including 2020 signup for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs;
  • Conservation programs, and
  • Acreage reports.

Relaxing the farm loan-making process

FSA is relaxing the loan-making process by:

  • Extending the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications;
  • Preparing direct loan documents, even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings. Once those searches are complete, FSA would close the loan, and
  • Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those lien searches, filings and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings.

Servicing direct loans

FSA is extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers.

FSA will temporarily suspend loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures and referring foreclosures to the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will make the determination on whether to stop foreclosures and evictions on accounts under its jurisdiction.

Servicing guaranteed loans

Guarantee lenders can self-certify, providing their borrowers with:

  • Subsequent-year operating loan advances on lines of credit, and
  • Emergency advances on lines of credit.

FSA will consider guaranteed lender requests for:

  • Temporary payment deferral consideration when borrowers do not have a feasible plan reflecting that family living expenses, operating expenses and debt can be repaid, and
  • Temporary forbearance consideration for borrowers on loan liquidation and foreclosure actions.

Contacting FSA

FSA will be accepting additional forms and applications by facsimile or electronic signature. Some services are also available online to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal, where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in.

FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.

NRCS services

NRCS staff are working with customers through phone, mail and online communications, and field work continues with appropriate social distancing to help producers with conservation planning and financial assistance through farm bill programs.

“Our team is here to work with you, and we are looking at every possible option and flexibility to support the conservation needs of America’s farmers and ranchers,” NRCS chief Matthew Lohr said. “We want to continue our customer assistance while also taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

NRCS offers year-round continuous signup for its farm bill programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Call respective NRCS field offices about signup and application submission options.

Additionally, NRCS is continuing projects with partners, including universities, local and state governments, tribes, nonprofits and others. NRCS will continue to award projects and to call for proposals for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Conservation Innovation Grants and Voluntary Public Access & Habitat Incentive Program.

TAGS: Policy
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