Senators ask Vilsack to explain decision on marketing assistance loans

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2013 - A bipartisan group of senators recently challenged USDA to explain “ill-timed decisions” regarding marketing assistance loans that they say are creating financial uncertainty and hardships for farmers and businesses, including what will amount to a one-month delay in processing loans.

Fourteen senators, led by Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking for an explanation about a Sept. 30 decision to apply a 5.1 percent sequester on marketing assistance loans made after Oct. 1, which they said could result in price reductions for peanut and cotton yields.

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The letter also asks the USDA to explain the rationale behind the timing of the loan processing delay.

“The decision to apply sequestration and delay loan processing just as harvest across much of the Sunbelt is gearing up is particularly damaging because it was made without warning,” the senators wrote. “This means growers, marketing cooperatives, private merchandizing firms, and agribusinesses were unable to make alternative plans to mitigate the financial hardship imposed by the decisions.”

The senators said their constituents are concerned about a lack of detail and transparency in the decision.

“This will have a direct bearing on how growers, marketing cooperatives, private merchandizing firms, and agribusinesses adjust their current and future marketing strategy,” the senators wrote.

Cochran said a 14-day loan processing delay to allow for software updates was scheduled to begin Oct. 1, but was delayed during the 16-day partial government shutdown.  The USDA indicated during the shutdown that the 14-day software upgrade would commence when the government reopened.

The letter was signed by Cochran, Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., John Boozman, R-Ark., Richard Burr, R-N.C., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., James Inhofe, R-Okla., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., David Vitter, R-La., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

The letter can be viewed here.

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