Federal Farm Foreclosures Seen Soaring
Within the next couple of years, the federal government’s farm lending agency could be in the process of kicking thousands of farmers off their land and adding substantially to its farmland inventory.
By its own estimate, the Farmers Home Administration could hold more than 20,000 farms by the end of next year. In 1979, before the current downturn in farm economic fortunes began, the FmHA held 288 properties. By March 31, that number had increased 14-fold to 4,075 farms totaling 1.2 million acres valued at $709 million, government figures show.
The list of more than 4,000 farm properties--composing an area larger than the state of Rhode Island--has made the FmHA one of the nation’s largest farm landlords and is costing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, congressional investigators say.
On top of that, the agency is leasing much of the land that it holds to farmers who then use it to grow crops that are already in surplus and that the government is paying other farmers not to grow, according to a new report.
“FmHA’s ownership of farm property ties up a significant amount of government funds and results in increased government management expenses,” the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative arm, said in its report. “It also enhances a public perception that many farmers are losing their land and homes to the government.”
As of March 31, there were 93 farm properties in California held by the Farmers Home Administration. The 93 properties totaled 27,224 acres and were valued at about $45.3 million. The total value was the highest in the country.