Andrea D. Foore | Posted on Jun 09, 2020
As COVID-19 and its profusely challenging side effects continue to test the United States, it is important to remember you are not alone in this. Adaptation is the key to navigating our new environment.
As an agribusiness lender, I have seen the changes many of our local farmers, suppliers, and production facilities have made to accommodate new regulations and the supply chain disruptions. In order to determine what adaptations should be made, it is important to consult with your business allies. These individuals may include your nutritionist, seed salesman, flock advisor, contracted integrator, accountant and lender. Carefully identify and itemize the problems you are encountering and share your concerns. They may be able to provide assistance.
For example, many community bankers specializing in agriculture are working alongside local farmers during this critical time. When looking at each unique situation, your lender may suggest a variety of options such as payment deferrals, interest only payments, or working with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) or Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA).
Another opportunity that many local agricultural businesses have been able to take advantage of is the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) made available through the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Community banking lenders are equipped to walk their customers through the PPP application and help to successfully secure funds for many farms and businesses to continue paying their employees.
A second program available through the SBA is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). While businesses apply for the PPP loans through their lender, an EIDL is applied for directly through the SBA. Please consider discussing this with your lender. They may suggest an internal solution that they can provide, as previously discussed, prior to taking on another loan.
More recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced the Coronavirus Food Aid Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to farmers who have been impacted by the decline in market prices. If you need assistance in applying for this program, you should contact your local FSA office.
I continue to work with all customers---new and established---as a dedicated agribusiness lender. Again, adaptation is key! Community banks and their lenders are also making the necessary changes to continue to serve clients. I have personally settled numerous loans in an outdoor setting to try and maintain social distancing for my borrowers. Bank lobbies are being retrofitted so that the environment inside is safe for customers and employees upon reopening. It is important for bankers, and other service providers, to continue providing the service you expect and deserve, while following the necessary safety precautions.
Farmers and agribusinesses are encouraged to reach out to their lender and other business allies to help navigate these unsettling times. These specialists may be able to provide assistance or insight into how you can adapt and move forward through our new “normal” during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.