Gillibrand pushes relief bill for small farms

WASHINGTON (WCAX) New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is hoping to help provide relief to small farms in distress because of the pandemic.

Farm bankruptcies are at an eight-year high and net farm income has dropped by nearly half since 2013. School and restaurant closures have led to less demand for some agricultural products, leaving many farmers without a way to sell their goods.

The Relief for America's Small Farmers Act would provide a one-time debt forgiveness for up to $250,000 across three types of USDA FSA loans: Direct Farm Operating Loans, Direct Farm Ownership loans and Emergency Loans. The relief would be available to farms even if they were in default prior to the pandemic.

"Farmers will have a one-year window to apply for debt relief. More importantly, this bill will bolster America's food supply by requiring farmers who receive this relief to keep farming for at least two-years," Gillibrand said.

The Democrat wants to see her bill included in the next package of coronavirus response legislation. She says the bill would address more than $2.8 billion in loans for nearly 40,000 small and medium farmers around the country. She says she's currently looking for bipartisan support for the bill.