USDA’s Farm Service Agency is reevaluating the way it structures farm loans to serve U.S. producers.

“I think we could make a case could be made that all of our borrowers are in distress,” acting FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers this week, defining distressed borrowers as “those who cannot find credit elsewhere at reasonable rates and terms.” 

FSA has long been considered a lender of last resort because it makes loans to farmers who can't get credit elsewhere. 

He said the goal is to make the best terms available sooner, as opposed to when “things fall apart." The changes are intended to help farmers be resilient through equity and liquid assets, instead of keeping them at a thin margin.

Ducheneaux’s vision is to provide sufficient credit to meet borrowers' needs, which includes paying themselves a wage, funding a retirement account and investing in an education fund. 

“Everybody should be looking at what we do and seeing if there are ways that they emulate that, instead of having us just serve as the grooming and the proving ground for borrowers to graduate into commercial credit,” he said. 

"What we do in our loan portfolios ... is an example that all other lenders should emulate," he said.

Asked whether FSA’s staff of about 10,200 people in 2,100 county offices is sufficient, he said, “Our team always manages to get the job done.” 

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“Could we use more resources? Could we take better care of the employees we've got with those resources? Absolutely,” Ducheneaux said. 

He looks at whether its employees qualify for nutrition assistance programs as a yardstick to determine whether they are properly compensated. FSA employee participation in the Women, Infants and Children program as high as “25% isn’t uncommon in some states,” Ducheneaux said. 

Ethan Lane from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Mike Stranz from the National Farmers Union also joined the show to discuss how conservation programs, risk management tools and the debt ceiling debate will impact the 2023 farm bill. 

This week’s episode of Agri-Pulse Newsmakers is available at

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