P.L. 87-128 (August 8, 1961) authorized a major expansion of USDA lending activities, which at the time were administered by Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), but now through the Farm Service Agency. The legislation was originally enacted as the Consolidated Farmers Home Administration Act of 1961. In 1972, this title was changed to the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, and is often referred to as the Con Act. The Con Act, as amended, currently serves as the authorizing statute for USDA’s agricultural and rural development lending programs. Titles in the Act include current authority for the following three major FSA farm loan programs—farm ownership, farm operating and emergency disaster loans. Major amendments to the Con Act enacted in recent years that affect current USDA farm lending programs include the following: Title VI of the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-233, January 6, 1988) assists borrowers by requiring FSA to restructure or write down a delinquent loan if the government cost of restructuring is less than the cost of foreclosure. Title VI details the restructuring process and gives delinquent borrowers specific rights throughout the process. Title XVIII, Subtitle A of the FACT Act of 1990 contained provisions designed to curb the perceived abuses of the borrower rights provisions of the 1987 Act. The 1990 farm bill allows FSA to consider the equity in non-essential assets in determining what portion of the loan can be written down and also gives FSA the authority to deny a borrower restructuring if these non-essential assets can be liquidated to make the borrower current on the delinquent loan. The Agricultural Credit Improvement Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-554, October 28, 1992) established new USDA loan programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. The law established direct and guaranteed loan programs for beginning farmers and ranchers, and a program to provide 10-year loans for beginning farmers and ranchers to purchase their own farm or ranch in return for a down payment equivalent to 10% of the purchase price of the land. The law also limited the total number of years any borrower may participate in the agency’s farm ownership and operating loan programs. Title VI of the FAIR Act of 1996 directly affects eligibility for FSA loans and the servicing of its delinquent loans. It tightens the borrower rights provisions of the 1987 Act by, e.g., prohibiting any borrower who has had debt forgiven on a delinquent loan from receiving a new loan, and expedites the sale of farmland acquired by USDA through foreclosure or other forms of debt settlement.
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