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Congress to finalize funding bill that includes farm operation loans

WASHINGTON - Congress appears likely to finalize a bill that would fund the government through April, and also includes provisions to provide money for U.S. Department of Agriculture farm operating loans. 

With the downturn in commodity prices, there has been increased interest in the USDA loans.

The House passed the bill on Dec. 8 and the Senate was scheduled to consider it the following day.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, which covers 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, will maintain government operations at a rate of $1.070 trillion through April 28.

“Extending the continuing resolution into spring will allow Congress to work with the incoming administration on appropriations priorities for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years,” Cochran said. “I remain committed to passing thoughtful, fiscally-responsible bills as this process goes forward.”

Ferd Hoefner, the policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition noted in an email that Section 146 of the bill contains a provision calling for the Agricultural Credit Insurance Fund Program account to be “apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to fund loans for which applications are approved.”

The farm credit provision was included after farm groups sent a letter to appropriators that it was “absolutely critical that measures be taken to ensure that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) has the resources in hand to meet rising demand for direct and guaranteed farm credit, including during the peak winter and spring months when demand for production loans is highest.”