Farmers behind on repaying federal loans will get some relief during the COVID-19 national emergency.

Past-due debt collection and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the farm storage facility loan and direct farm loan programs will be temporarily suspended, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

“USDA and the Biden administration are committed to bringing relief and support to farmers, ranchers and producers of all backgrounds and financial status, including by ensuring producers have access to temporary debt relief,” said Robert Bonnie, deputy chief of staff at the USDA. “Additionally, we are evaluating ways to improve and address farm-related debt with the intent to keep farmers on their farms earning living expenses, providing for emergency needs, and maintaining cash flow.”

Non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets and wage garnishments will be suspended until further notice, the agency said. It will stop referring foreclosures to the U.S. Department of Justice and will work to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions already referred to the department, the agency said.

About 12,000 borrowers nationwide, one in 10 of farmers with federal loans, will be eligible for relief. The agency did not respond when asked how many Maine farms would be eligible.

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