GOSHEN – The dinner and fixings on the table for Thanksgiving are always something to enjoy, but producing food sends farmers into debt, and this can keep Chris Pawelski up at night.
Pawelski was smiling Tuesday in his warehouse, stacked with crates of onions, as Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney shared news of the legislation he has sponsored, The Relief for Small Farmers Act, to help small family farmers shed debt that’s been accumulated over time with direct loans from Uncle Sam.
“When that becomes law, it will create an extraordinary opportunity for our local farmers to get ahead,” said Maloney.
The legislation, totaling $10 billion, is part of the current Build Back Better infrastructure package, which has passed the House of Representatives, and is now waiting for Senate approval.
“That’s huge,” said Maloney. “That’s one of the biggest things that’s going to happen to our family farmers in a while.”
Maloney’s legislation would provide $150,000 of federal debt relief to small farmers and affect 98 percent of the state’s farmers with direct loans like Pawelski.
“It’s a game changer for me – and an estimated 60,000 other farmers across the country,” said Pawelski. “I have a huge amount of USDA debt, in large part to weather disasters over the years that have saddled me. It’s made it very difficult to do any advancements on the farm and any purchases alike because I have too much debt that’s been liened by the USDA.”
Sitting in the way may be West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has seemed to deem himself the decider for any social spending packages proposed by his fellow Democrats.
Maloney, though, is optimistic this legislation will survive Manchin’s scrutiny after lawmakers in both houses have negotiated most of what is being included in this spending bill.
“What we have done, which is unusual, is negotiated out 90 percent, I’d say, with the Senate,” said Maloney. “Let’s remember there’s a lot of economically distressed family farms in West Virginia, too.”