BANGOR — Due to the national public health emergency caused by COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

USDA will temporarily suspend nonjudicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. USDA will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the Department of Justice.

USDA has extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. In addition, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to assist in servicing their customers.

The announcement expands previous actions undertaken by the department to lessen financial hardship. According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers — approximately 10% of all borrowers — are eligible for the relief. Overall, FSA lends to more than 129,000 farmers, ranchers and producers.

The temporary suspension is in place until further notice and is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.

Producers can contact their county office to discuss the programs and the loan servicing options available. For service center contact information, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus. For servicing information, access farmers.gov.