Special Report on Farm Loan Restructuring
The Congressional Oversight Panel's "Special Report on Farm Loan Restructuring" fulfills a mandate under the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 to issue a report that "analyzes the state of the commercial farm credit markets and the use of loan restructuring as an alternative to foreclosure by recipients of financial assistance under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)."
The Panel's report first examines the state of the agricultural sector and notes that, in general, it has fared somewhat better than the broader economy. The balance sheets of farmers and agricultural lenders have remained relatively strong, and credit is still available at reasonable prices.
Recent trends and projections in farm lending are troubling. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expects net farm income to decline by 20 percent in 2009, which may reduce some farmers' ability to repay loans later in the year, although the impact may be mitigated by an increasing reliance on off-farm income. Demand for direct operating loans from the agricultural lender of last resort, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), increased 81 percent over the last year, and demand for direct ownership loans increased 132 percent.
The Panel's report also examines the possibility of establishing a farm loan restructuring mandate for TARP-recipient commercial banks in order to prevent agricultural foreclosures.