The agricultural industry faces many challenges, and these have only been emphasized as a result of the pandemic. Through necessary reform such as the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America ECORA Act — legislation authored by Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) to remove taxation on income from certain farm real estate loans made by FDIC-backed institutions — banks would be able to provide significant help by lowering loan rates and serving these borrowers in a more efficient manner. Advocating for the success of this industry requires a collective effort, and Senator Tammy Baldwin is one of these individuals making a powerful difference in Wisconsin’s ag community.
On April 29, Sen. Baldwin held her first hearing as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. The hearing, titled “Diversifying On-Farm Income: Opportunities to Strengthen Rural America” focused on how diversifying the operations of agriculture producers can result in more on-farm income as well as the challenges and opportunities of the industry.
“In Wisconsin and across the country, a strong agricultural economy is vital to a strong rural economy. As the pandemic continues to weigh on our rural communities and agriculture sector, we must deliver more support and solutions so our farmers and small businesses have the tools they need to get through this economic crisis,” said Sen. Baldwin.
Accessing newer and fairer markets has been a priority for Baldwin as well. As the discussion around climate change becomes more pressing, there is a growing number of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers looking to address this. Being able to assure profitability for these workers, who are also looking at solutions to climate issues, is a critical part of assisting the industry, though it has not come without obstacles.
Following the passage of the Economic Aid Act, farming partnerships were shut out from using a new and more generous loan calculation despite a co-authored provision by Baldwin and Sen. John Thune to allow sole-proprietor and self-employed farmers to use their gross income to calculate their maximum Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. As a result of this, Sen. Baldwin along with several other legislators introduced bipartisan legislation titled PPP Flexibility for Farmers, Ranchers, and the Self-Employed Act to extend more relief to farmers in Wisconsin through PPP changes. This also included a fix that allowed self-employed farmers already receiving loan forgiveness to retroactively apply for another loan. The amount of the loan would be the difference between the former and latter loan, based on gross income.
“I’ve been working to make more resources and funding available for Wisconsin farmers so they can access the relief they need,” said Sen. Baldwin. “And as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development, I’m going to keep working across the aisle to ensure farmers and agriculture businesses have the tools they need to succeed and strengthen our rural economy.”
WBA looks forward to continuing its work with Sen. Baldwin to support Wisconsin’s agricultural industry by addressing these challenges and push for legislation.