U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, D-Murphysboro, this month reintroduced legislation intended to give starting farmers access to credit
The bipartisan bill is called the Beginning Agriculturist Lifetime Employment Act, or BALE.
Bost introduced the legislation during the last Congress to ensure agricultural producers — especially those just getting started — have access to credit to expand or diversify their operations.
The previous iteration of the bill was not signed into law, however, congressional negotiators raised the lending caps to $1.75 million, rather than the $2.5 million Bost requested. This year’s bill would again raise the cap to $2.5 million.
“Access to finance is the lifeblood of any business, but it’s especially important in agriculture,” said Bost. “I’ve heard from farmers and ranchers throughout Southern Illinois who are either just getting off their feet or are trying to grow their business. They tell me all the time that the cost of doing business is growing while their revenue to reinvest in their business and employees is going in the other direction.”
The legislation would achieve the changes by modernizing the Guaranteed and Direct Loan Programs.
Bost is joined in sponsorship of the bill by Congresswoman Robin Kelly, D-Chicago.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, has also expressed his support.
“The BALE Act will help empower our farmers during unpredictable times by improving the Guaranteed And Direct Loan Programs through the USDA,” said Davis. “The changes made by this bill will ensure more farmers have access to credit so they can continue to feed the world. I’m proud to join my colleagues from Illinois, Reps. Bost and Kelly, in introducing this bipartisan bill that builds on provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Direct Loan Program provides direct low interest loans to producers, while the Guaranteed Loan Program allows private lenders to make conservation, operating, and ownership loans with the security of knowing the loans are backed by the USDA. However, the loan programs have not kept pace with the cost of starting and operating an agricultural business. The BALE Act builds on a provision sponsored by Bost in the 2018 Farm Bill that increased lending caps on conservation, ownership and operator loans.
The BALE Act will:
• Increase lending caps on conservation, ownership and operator loans from $1.75 million (as authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill) to $2.5 million.
• Qualified beginning farmer and ranchers will see a 95 percent loan guarantee.
• All other guaranteed loans will have a 90 percent guarantee.
• Factors the guarantee down 1 percent per $100,000 over $2.5 million.
• Sets the maximum loan at $3.5 million with an 85 percent guarantee for qualified beginning farmers and ranchers and an 80 percent guarantee for all other guaranteed loans.
• Applicable to all FSA conservation, ownership, and operating guaranteed loans.
• Raise the Direct Loan cap from $300,000 to $600,000.
It is supported by: American Bankers Association, the Farm Credit Council, Independent Community Bankers Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, CoBank, National Rural Lenders Association, National Council of Farmers Cooperatives, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, Illinois Beef Association, USA Rice Federation, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Corn Growers, Wisconsin Corn Growers, National Milk Producers Federation.