Nebraska's agriculture community hasn't been spared from the long reach of COVID-19. In addition to livestock and crop markets, ethanol saw a considerable downturn in the 10 weeks of recoil brought on by federal guidelines.
And yet, none of the economic relief packages passed through Washington addresses the needs of the agricultural community.
While political back-and-forth hampered the currently-discussed HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act, the United States Department of Agriculture announced up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses while also stating that producers not eligible for loans through the USDA's Farm Service Agency could find funding through Congress' passed CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue introduced the plan on May 22.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural businesses and agricultural producers and being a strong supporter of all aspects of the rural economy,” Perdue said in a release. “Ensuring more agricultural producers are able to gain access to much-needed capital in these unprecedented times is a cornerstone of that commitment.”
Perdue also said the 90% guarantees on Business and Industry CARES Act loans, established a guaranteed 2% fee, waived requirement on discounting collateral of working capital loans and extended those maximum terms to 10 years.
While those decisions weren't made as an all-time fix to the problems of producers, Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry saw them as at least a step in the right direction. And not a moment too soon.
“Another very important arrow in the quiver,” Fortenberry told the SCI. “The disaster loans provided for ag producers through the small business administration are a very important development. Very important development, another tool out there, which is appropriate particularly for those using disaster loans. Very appropriate tool and I'm glad we were able to pull together in a bipartisan way to create the conditions for that.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced during his daily COVID-19 press conference on May 27 that smaller livestock producers – operations with between one and 10 employees – would be eligible for $12,000 grants from the state, totaling up to $100 million funded by the CARES Act. The state is scheduled to receive $1.25 billion through CARES Act funds.
“We want to make sure that we're taking care of our small livestock producers, as well, because they've been impacted,” Ricketts said. “We certainly know about some of the issues with regard to where commodity prices are. We've seen what is happening in the food processing industry, where we've had huge slowdowns and people not being able to get their animals to market.”
Nebraska farmers and ranchers seeking applications for the USDA's latest relief package can contact Nebraska's USDA Rural Development office in Lincoln at (402) 437-5551.