In letter sent yesterday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest urged Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to use his authority to release $150 million in unobligated funds to help bridge the current gap in farm credit while supplemental loan authority is addressed by the President and Congress.
"At a time when credit availability can mean the difference between putting a crop in the field or selling the farm, the immediate release of these loan funds could prove to be crucial to thousands of our Nation's farmers faced with this very decision," Combest wrote.
"Persistent low commodity prices coupled with last year's crop losses have teamed up to create a severe credit crunch throughout farm country," Combest wrote. "Consistent with your expressed desire to see farmers through these difficult times, I am writing to request your immediate help in providing thousands of American farmers and ranchers with the credit they need now."
Recently, Congress approved and the President signed H.R. 882 into law releasing unobligated funds reserved for the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers program a month early, and providing a timely infusion of $472 million for USDA to guarantee agricultural loans. Congress' timing of H.R. 882 was essential for farmers and ranchers who were up against spring planting dates and whose loan applications had been approved but not yet satisfied.
"While the House of Representatives did pass H.R. 1141 to provide supplemental appropriations for $1.1 billion in new loan authority to satisfy credit needs, the President's request for additional monies to carry out NATO military operations in the Balkans has delayed this much-needed funding," Combest wrote.
"In view of this delay and with planting dates drawing closer for more and more farmers, I believe it is vitally important that you exercise your authority and immediately make available additional monies for both emergency and operating loans," Combest wrote. "Specifically, current law provides you with the flexibility to make immediately available approximately $150 million in reserved but unused funds. Importantly, the Supplemental Appropriations Bill currently under consideration will ensure that equally important but less immediate loan applications under various accounts are met."
Chairman Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and Permian Basin.