Loan assistance for farmers and fishers impacted by disasters

Construction workers use equipment to pile rocks and close a levee gap created by gushing floodwaters from the Pajaro River near the township of Pajaro in Monterey County, California. (Ken James/California Department of Water Resources)

Since January, California FarmLink staff have been asking farmer and rancher clients about impacts from winter storms and flooding. We found that about 25 of our borrowers in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties experienced significant impacts, which represents more than 50% of our loan portfolio. Most of these businesses have requested assistance from FarmLink to help them continue to operate while they wait for news of grants and emergency aid for which they have applied – primarily from community organizations and the USDA.

Resources We’re Making Available

Larger, more well-established farms which have more financial equity are more likely to be able to withstand near-term losses; while smaller farms, including many supported by FarmLink, are much more vulnerable. Specific assistance we can offer includes: 1) Payment deferments for borrowers who are unable to make payments due to lost revenue, 2) Recovery & Resilience Loans (as low as 0% interest) to address business impacts resulting from the disasters, and 3) Disaster assistance loans designed to help you in the near-term if you are waiting for government disaster assistance payments.

In addition to loans, we are working with community foundations to raise funds to offer grants of $5,000 - $10,000 for borrowers who have experienced significant impacts. In mid-April the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County committed to making grants of $5,000 to $10,000 for each of our Santa Cruz County borrowers impacted by the storms, and those funds will be disbursed soon.

Salmon Season Closure and Other Impacts

Recent years of drought have combined to profoundly impact California’s salmon populations and commercial fishers. On April 6, the Pacific Fishery Management Council announced its recommendations for this year’s ocean salmon season. While there are commercial fishing options north of the California/Oregon border, the council’s recommendation is to fully close this year’s commercial salmon season in California. As the council reported in a news release, the recommendation was made “given the low abundance forecasts for both Klamath and Sacramento River fall Chinook."

The recommendation will likely be adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service on May 16. Many fishers face losing a major portion of their annual incomes. We consider the closure to be the result of the drought-related disaster of recent years, and our loan team is ready to help fishers consider how a low-interest Recovery & Resilience Loan might be part of the solution to help their fishing businesses survive.

The salmon season closure, lost winter crops, delayed spring plantings, damaged infrastructure, and limited savings and access to working capital: all combine to make cash flow extremely challenging, both currently and for the foreseeable future. We are working with people  to determine what combinations of assistance will be necessary to help them navigate these  difficulties.

Looking Back; Looking Ahead

We established Recovery & Resilience Loans during COVID to support farmers, ranchers and fishers as they shifted from an emergency response to recovery and resilience.  Since then we have made about 35 recovery & resilience loans for approximately $1.5 million. Since its initial launch, this loan product has been adapted to allow it to be used for recovery from natural disasters, such as the recent floods, wildfires, and now the closure of salmon season.

We face a new reality: The disaster-recovery cycle seems to be here to stay in California, and it’s particularly challenging for farmers, ranchers and fishers given their reliance on Mother Nature and natural resources. If you are a current borrower impacted by the winter storms, please contact our loan team. Farmers, ranchers, and fishers impacted by flooding can request a disaster-recovery loan by creating a loan inquiry.

Learn more about our lending options here.

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