FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE/KSEE) –The federal government announced a new program aimed at helping struggling farmers stay in business.

It’s providing more than a billion dollars in debt relief for thousands across the nation.

“Farms and ranches are having a very difficult time right now with what a lot of consumers are seeing as far as inflation and other costs going up dramatically. We’re seeing the same thing on the farm,” said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. 

That’s why the U.S Department of Agriculture is allocating $1.3 billion as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Millions of dollars have already been distributed to farmers who got behind on loan payments or are at risk of foreclosure.

“The total amount of the assistance so far is $800 million but there is still more money to come. Throughout the country right now, there’s approximately 13,000 producers that have been assisted through this effort,” said Jacobsen. 

The USDA provides loans to those who don’t qualify for commercial credit.

“And there is a hope that about $500 million is still available that could assist upwards of about 23,000 producers,” said Jacobsen. 

In Fresno County, the Farm Bureau says growers continue facing financial challenges brought on by several difficulties, including the ongoing drought.

“So, we do encourage growers that have that USDA qualifying loans to reach out and see if they may qualify for the program,” Jacobsen said. 

According to the USDA, about 11,000 delinquent direct and guaranteed borrowers had their accounts brought current thanks to the new relief, and 2,100 borrowers who had their farms foreclosed on and still had remaining debt have had this debt resolved.

IRA was passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in August.