WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to help family farms reorganize after falling on hard times. The Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 was introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and is also co-sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Doug Jones (D-AL), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tina Smith (D-MN).
“Farmers in North Carolina and across the country are reeling from low commodity prices and natural disasters that will take years to recover from,” said Senator Tillis. “As these farmers rebuild their reserves, Congress must provide them protection during this delicate time when so much could go wrong that is outside of their control. I am proud to support this legislation that gives our farmers and their families relief, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation out of Congress.”
“For family farms whose assets are largely tied up in land and essential equipment, reorganizing debts can be particularly challenging when falling on hard times. As low commodity prices force farmers to take on more debt, this bill guarantees a safety net is in place for more farmers who need help getting back on their feet. By providing relief to these small-to-mid-size farms, we can ensure more successful reorganizations, which will be beneficial for everyone involved in the supply chain, while avoiding mass liquidations and further consolidation in the largest sectors of the industry,” Senator Grassley said.
Recognizing the unique challenges that family farmers and fishers face, Congress established Chapter 12 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, which removes certain costly reorganization requirements intended for large corporations. The Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 raises the Chapter 12 operating debt cap to $10 million, allowing more family farmers to seek relief under the program.
Several years of low commodity prices, stringent farm lending regulations and market uncertainty have taken a toll on America’s agriculture producers. Farm bankruptcy rates in many farming regions across the country are at their highest point in a decade. In some places in 2018, farm bankruptcies doubled from the previous year. Debts held by farmers are nearing historic levels set in the 1980s, further financially extending farm operations.
The Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Our farmer members have experienced several consecutive years of weak commodity prices and the low profitability and poor farm income that follow. As a result, farmers and ranchers are watching their equity erode as their debt-to-asset ratios climb and debt financing reaches a 30-year high. The double-whammy of nominal record farm debt and poor economic conditions have led many farmers to seek Chapter 12 bankruptcy as a debt relief and restructuring option. Lifting the liability cap and giving more farmers an opportunity to qualify for Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides the restructuring and seasonal repayment flexibility that many farmers need in today’s lagging farm economy and will help to align bankruptcy law with the scale and credit needs of U.S. agriculture,” said Zippy Duvall, President of American Farm Bureau Federation.
Bill text of the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019is available HERE.