Okla., N.C. Farmers Blast FmHA
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Farmers from Oklahoma and North Carolina blasted the Farmers Home Administration on Tuesday for the procedures being used by the government agency in contacting delinquent FmHA borrowers.
″FmHA has developed this delinquency notice packet which cost you and me about $344,000 to mail out to scare farmers during the holiday season,″ Don Schierer, a farmer from Ponca City, Okla., told the Senate Agriculture subcommittee on agricultural credit.
″The information contained in the packet is what the progressive farm groups fought for, but the FmHA’s implementation was the most narrow and rigid route possible,″ said Benny Bunting, of Oak City, N.C., chairman of the credit committee of the National Family Farm Coalition.
Over 80,000 delinquent notices were sent under provision of the Agriculture Credit Act of 1987, giving borrowers 45 days to request consideration in writing for loan program options.
″The 45-day period fell right at the time of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holiday season,″ said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Agriculture Committee chairman. ″Thus, FmHA’s timing was out of step with the intent of the act, which required final notices be published by June 6. Also, their timing could not have been worse in terms of borrowers being able to comply.″
Sen. David Boren, D-Okla., subcommittee chairman, also said the FmHA has not followed the Senate’s intent.
He chided Neil Johnson, acting FmHA administrator, for the number of forms the agency required farmers to fill out in response to the delinquency notice.
″The law says you (farmers) have to sign a letter″ within a 45-day period, not fill out several forms, said Boren.
He urged Johnson to ″put a safety net″ under the farmers who made an attempt to respond and give them more time.
He said he would ask Agriculture Secretary-designate Clayton K. Yeutter to make solving the problems connected with implementing the law a top priority.