LANSING — Michigan lawmakers are allocating $15 million to a low-interest loan program to help farmers wrestling with crop losses associated with historic rainfall this spring.
The bipartisan effort will provide some relief to the state’s farmers who are trying to keep their businesses viable as they continue to work around a prolonged period of unprecedented wet weather.
The season has been one of the state’s wettest periods on record. As of June 9, only 3.5 days this year had provided proper conditions for work in fields, many of which were flooded or have gone unplanted, according to an Associated Press report.
Approximately 63 percent of the state’s corn crop has been planted, down from 88 percent on the same date in 2018. Meanwhile, less than half of the soybean crop has been planted. In addition, soggy fields also have prevented farmers from harvesting hay for livestock.
More than 410 farmers contacted state representatives and senators in advance of the vote.
“It’s humbling to see the legislature understand what’s happening and be willing to step up to the plate for our industry,” Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) President Carl Bednarski said in a statement. “We are grateful for their support and fast action.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign the legislation. Ahead of the vote, she sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to request the federal government approve Michigan farmers for federal disaster assistance. Officials say 64 of the state’s 83 counties are seeking disaster designations.
The state bill funds the Agricultural Disaster Loan Origination Program, which provides low-interest funding for farm businesses. Similar low-interest loan programs were approved for Michigan farmers in 2002 and 2012.
“Naturally, now farmers are asking when the money will be available, are they eligible and how they can apply,” MFB Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park said in a statement. “When the bill is signed into law, borrowers can contact their lending institution for application procedures and consultation on individual farmers’ situations.”
Affected growers, processors and handlers will be eligible for a 1 percent interest rate on loans.
“Given the high level of attention to emergency provisions at the federal level, it’s important to note this state-level program is not commodity specific and is autonomous from federal program provisions,” Park said.
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