The Farmers Home Administration is mailing out Friday the last of 83,480 delinquency notices to farmers who owe more than $8 billion in past-due government loans.
Among them were 1,793 delinquent loans in Idaho, 45 percent of the 3,984 farm loans in the Gem State, and 247 delinquent loans in Utah, 19.9 percent of the 1,239 farm loans.Agency officials began sending out the notices by certified mail on Nov. 15 telling FmHA borrowers they have 45 days to complete and return the nine forms. Basically, the notices tell farmers about the options they have for settling their debt, including restructuring and write-offs.
Congress ordered FmHA in the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 to revise its lending practices, including ways to handle long-overdue debt owed by thousands of farmers. Parts of the law were put into effect earlier in the year but debt write-down, or forgiveness, kicked in this month.
The purpose of the notices is to give delinquent borrowers an opportunity to let FmHA know how they want to handle their debt under the new law's provisions.
Leland H. Swenson, president of the National Farmers Union, said, "The new law basically says FmHA must give borrowers whose delinquency was caused by factors beyond their control 45 days to convince the agency that it could recover more by working with them than it could by forcing them out."
Swenson added, "Clearly, the law puts the burden on borrowers to prepare their financial arguments quickly and thoroughly."
If a farmer's response, or application, to FmHA on how he plans to settle the debt is accepted by the agency, the chances of survival are brightened. But if a borrower's plan is rejected - or if a reply is not sent at all - then foreclosure or forced sale of property is likely.
Although agency spokesmen say no hard estimates are available as to how many of the 83,480 delinquents may be foreclosed or forced to sell out, estimates have ranged from around 10,000 to more than 40,000.
Vance L. Clark, FmHA administrator, has said that eventually up to 30,000 borrowers could face foreclosure.
Clark resigned his job earlier this week, according to FmHA spokesmen. He had previously indicated leaving around Dec. 1. Sox Johnson, acting associate administrator, took over the job.
No official announcement was made of Clark's departure, although a farewell party was held in USDA on Tuesday afternoon.