A government loan extension for Arkansas farmers was touted Tuesday by Arkansas’s U.S. Representatives as needed assistance after a grain firm failed to pay farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture granted a 60 day extension on Farm Service Agency Marketing Assistance Loans used by east Arkansas farmers to plant crops.
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Butch Calhoun said the collapse of Turner Grain Merchandising, a middleman for farmers and grain buyers, means farmers didn’t get the money from the grain brokerage to repay loans used in planting.
“They had to pay back their government loan once that grain is sold. What has happened is the grain is gone and certain people that had these now have to repay the loans and they don’t have the funds to repay them. This extension will give them time so they won’t be past due on these loans as this thing plays out and we see where they’re going to be money-wise,” said Calhoun.
Secretary Calhoun said he’s optimistic some of the money could be returned to farmers.
“I’m hopeful that there will be some money found that maybe some of these farmers can get for their grain that maybe has been sold and someone is holding the money. There may be a way that at least some of them can get part of their money back. It’s an unfolding saga that is unfolding very slowly,” said Calhoun.
In a press release Tuesday Congressman Tim Griffin, also the Republican candidate for the Lieutenant Governor’s office, said he appreciated the USDA’s “timely response” and a “willingness to work with our growers.” Representatives Rick Crawford, Steve Womack, and Tom Cotton also commended the USDA for granting the extension they requested in a letter on August 28th.
Griffin also cautioned that while applauding the FSA extension the USDA “did not grant the amount of time we felt necessary.”
Calhoun said future extensions are not out of the question depending on the progress of legal actions against Turner Grain.
“I would assume that USDA will look at it and see what’s going on and the possibilities are for some of this money being recouped. I think they will look at it and with Congressional help maybe the [U.S. Agriculture] Secretary [Tom Vilsack] will give another extension according to how things play out,” said Calhoun.
The 60 day FSA loan extension is in addition to a previously approved 30 day extension.
Turner Grain is based in Brinkley, in Monroe County. Farmers in Lonoke, Lee, Monroe, and Phillips counties are among those affected and filing suit.