$1 Billion in Loans Still Available for Farm Finance in Ohio

$1 billion in funding set aside for help farmers in Ohio sits unencumbered on the state’s Ag-LINK balance sheet.

“We want more farmers to be able to take advantage of this program,” Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague said Wednesday. “Whether you farm 150 acres, 1,500 acres or 15,000 acres, you can benefit from this program.

Only $285 million of the $1.4 billion allocated has been borrowed, leaving 79.6 percent of program funding still available to help cover short-term spending needs in the agriculture sector.

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Ag-LINK helps farmers, agribusinesses, and agricultural cooperatives finance initial operating costs for feed, seed, fertilizer, fuel, equipment, and other farm essentials. operation.

“We’re trying to solve a problem for farmers in Ohio,” Sprague said during a visit to The News Journal on Wednesday morning. “Farmers have always been the backbone of Ohio’s economy, but the devastating effects of inflation are breaking their backs this year.”

New Ag-LINK Guidelines

Ag-LINK was formed three decades ago, but the treasurer said it “just wasn’t designed to deal with inflation.”

That’s why his office revamped the program to use the state treasury to cover rising input costs.

Sprague explained that state inflation hit 9.1%, a 40-year high. Despite wage increases, he said real earnings have fallen 2.4% this year alone.

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“There are several things we’ve done to fight inflation,” Sprague said.

First, loan limits have more than tripled from $150,000 to $500,000 per year.

The funding application window was then expanded from January and February to year-round for breeders.

“The third thing farmers told us was, ‘We’d like you to consider agricultural co-ops because we all buy most of our things through a co-op,'” Sprague said. for the first time, agricultural cooperatives eligible for these subsidized loans.”

Set to vary with interest rates

Loans are funded at rates between 0.5% and 3% below the usual interest rate.

As of Tuesday, nearly 1,300 borrowers statewide were using $285 million of the program money.

Richland County had 26 loans totaling $3,511,150; Crawford County had 58 loans totaling $16,061,125 and Ashland County had nine loans totaling $1,681,212.

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“We know that going forward, as interest rates rise, this program will be even more valuable,” Sprague said. “As interest rates rise, we will be able to offer even more rebates to farmers.

Individual loan rates will be set by financial institutions — eligible banks, credit unions and agricultural lenders — already used by borrowers.

“I am pleased to report that in the first six months of the changes to the Ag-LINK program, we have actually quadrupled the total dollar amount of loans on which we are helping to reduce the interest rate,” said said Sprague.

“Not a crisis from Ohio”

The Treasurer has toured the state throughout the year meeting with farmers who have been hit hard by rising costs.

He was recently at a 3,000 acre farm in Wood County where he learned the cost of Roundup herbicide had risen from $11 a gallon last year to $74 this year.

“It’s their main herbicide that they apply,” Sprague said. “He said the cost of diesel for the crop (at the Wood County farm) has gone from $30,000 last year to $70,000 this year.”

A Noble County woman told him her nitrogen fertilizer bill had gone from $300 a ton last year to $1,100 this year.

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Since many farms stock up a year in advance, a good portion of them have not yet been fully impacted by rising costs.

“It’s not a crisis on Ohio’s part,” Sprague said. “It’s not something we created. It was created in Washington, D.C., by the huge deficit spending they’ve done over the last three years, under both administrations.”

The state treasurer said the $5.8 trillion the US government has spent since the pandemic began is more than the total amount of national debt just two decades ago.

“We’ve been spending this since May 2020,” Sprague said. “At the end of the day, Washington, DC needs to get its spending under control and balance its budget.”

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Garland K. Long