Florida Delegation Urges SBA to Make Small Farms Eligible for Emergency Loans

This week, a majority of the U.S. House members representing Florida called on the Small Business Administration (SBA) to qualify as small businesses for federal loan programs.

Last month, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to help the economy during the coronavirus crisis. The package included $377 billion in loans for small businesses.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., rounded up more than half of the Florida delegation in sending a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza “calling for the SBA to allow small farms which would qualify as small businesses to be eligible to apply for Emergency Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) relief, in light of the uncertainty and economic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing for business.”

Hastings’ office explained why the members sent the letter.

“During a time where supply chains are disrupted, it is particularly important to support farms that are feeding our nation. Farmers create stability for the nation’s food supply, so it is incumbent on our nation to ensure economic stability for them,” Hastings’ office noted.

Other signers of the letter include U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Val Demings, D-Fla., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Neal Dunn, R-Fla., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., Al Lawson, D-Fla., Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Bill Posey, R-Fla., John Rutherford, R-Fla., Donna Shalala, D-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., Greg Steube, R-Fla., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

“We write as representatives of Florida’s farming community to express our grave concern with the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) decision to preclude agriculture enterprises such as farms from eligibility for the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, despite the impact COVID-19 has had on their viability as small businesses,” the members of the Florida delegation wrote.

“As you know, the agricultural sector in Florida is the second largest contributor to our state’s economy. Florida is home to over 47,000 farms across 9.7 million acres of land that contribute to the national food supply chain and billions of dollars to our economy. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused the demand for Florida farmers’ produce to decline significantly as part of a chain reaction that has reached numerous sectors, businesses, and communities. The closure and reduced service of resturants, tourist attractions, and the overall restriction of movement throughout the state clearly and directly affects farmers, however farms are listed as an ineligible entity on the EIDL application,” they continued.

“This has not only affected Florida, but farmers across the United States who face loss of product, income, and business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our farmers feed the nation, and Florida’s specialty crop producers ensure year-round access to seasonal fruits and vegetables and a steady food supply chain. We ask that the Small Business Administration extend EDILs to small business farmers, so they may access much needed financial support and stability during this time of immense uncertainty. Specifically, we ask that you remove “agriculture enterprise” as an ineligible entity on the EIDL application, so that farms that meet the guidelines of a small business may receive the relief that will allow them to stock our grocery produce sections and continue to cultivate and harvest their crops. It is incumbent on the federal government to provide stability to those most in need, during a time of health and economic crisis.  Therefore, we implore you to respond to the clear, immediate need of our agricultural businesses and the families that rely on them to put healthy, low-cost food on their tables,” they added.

“Thank you for your consideration of this urgent request, and we look forward to collaborating with you to protect and bolster our small business community as our nation progresses through this crisis,” they wrote in conclusion.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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