Washington, D.C. - Wyoming U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas and eight of their western colleagues have written a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jacob Lew urging them to "prioritize available agency resources to avoid any procedural delay in the implementation of the ABT bankruptcy emergency loan program for seed producers."
Earlier this year the Senate passed legislation providing more than $35 million in no-interest loans to alfalfa seed growers in 39 states who face severe financial hardship due to the bankruptcy of their seed buyer, AgriBio Tech. The Las Vegas, Nev. corporation contracted with 95 farmers in Wyoming's Big Horn Basin. Those growers could potentially lose $4.5 million in payments still owed to them by AgriBio Tech. The Agricultural Risk Protection Act provided the growers with loans of up to 65 percent of what is owed to them by AgriBio Tech. The loans would be repayable in 18 months or upon settlement of the bankruptcy. But the money for the loans has been slowed by bureaucratic administration.
Enzi, Thomas and their colleagues hope to speed things up with their letter which is attached. In addition to Enzi and Thomas Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Larry Craig, R-Idaho, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Slade Gorton, R-Wash., signed the letter.
September 20, 2000
The Honorable Dan Glickman
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
14th Street and Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Mr. Jacob Lew
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503
We are writing to request prompt implementation of an emergency loan program authorized by the Risk Management for the 21st Century Act to assist farmers adversely affected by the AgriBioTech (ABT) bankruptcy. It is critical to financial stability of many seed and forage producers that this short-term loan relief be made available as soon as possible.
As you may be aware, AgriBioTech was one of the largest handlers of turfgrass seed, alfalfa seed, and clover seed in the nation prior to its abrupt bankruptcy filing early this year. The dissolution of the company, and the associated ongoing legal process, has left thousands of small farmers still awaiting payment for their crops. Due to the generally poor market conditions in agriculture in recent years, many of these farmers are in no position to withstand the financial impacts of this bankruptcy.
Under a provision of the Risk Management for the 21st Century Act, the Congress provided USDA the authority and the necessary appropriation to carry out an emergency loan program for ABT farmers. This proposal was developed with advice from the USDA in order to minimize administrative procedures, and ultimately speed distribution of loan funds to farmers whose livelihoods hang in the balance. It had been our understanding that USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) would be able to begin sign-up procedures this month so as to commence loan distribution shortly after October 1.
Many of the seed and forage producers that have been adversely impacted by the ABT bankruptcy are the same family farmers often hailed as the cornerstone of American agriculture. We fully share the Clinton Administration's stated commitment to preserving this important rural way of life for future generations. For that reason, we ask that you prioritize available agency resources to avoid any procedural delay in the implementation of the ABT bankruptcy emergency loan program for seed producers.
While we recognize that there are a number of important issues competing for the attention of your respective offices at this time, we would greatly appreciate a status update on this initiative. We thank you in advance for consideration, and look forward to working with you on behalf of America's seed and forage producers.
Gordon Smith, Larry Craig,
Mike Enzi, Max Baucus,
Slade Gorton, Craig Thomas,
Mike Crapo, Patty Murray,
Conrad Burns, Ron Wyden