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Farmer Relief Program

HDOA News Release

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) mailed out the first batch of checks under the COVID-19 Emergency Farmer Relief Program last week. Four Molokai grants are among the recipients. HDOA received 333 applications for the grants and was able to award 106 proposals that ranged from $2,000 for individual farmers and ranchers and up to $10,000 for nonprofit organizations, commodity groups, and agricultural associations that have experienced financial damage due to the COVID-19 emergency.

The total funding for the program was $250,000 which was drawn from the State’s barrel tax fund (Agriculture Development and Food Security Special Fund) and made available through Gov. David Ige’s March 4 emergency proclamation. The Ulupono Foundation contributed an additional $20,000 to specifically assist local pork producers with feed costs, as they no longer can rely on food scraps from closed restaurants. Unfortunately, the limited funds could only fund fewer than one third of all the requests.

HDOA awarded 86 individual farmers and ranchers $2,000 each for a total of $172,000. Thirteen nonprofit agricultural organizations were awarded a total of $76,000 (ranging from $4,000 to $10,000). Relief funds may be used to help utilize an oversupply of agricultural products resulting from the decreased demand due to closures of restaurants, schools and other businesses.

Applications received by the March 27 deadline totaled more than $1.2 million dollars. Priority was given to proposals that demonstrated significant financial damage caused specifically by or exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation that poses a serious threat of permanently shutting down the applicant’s agricultural operations. Checks were fast-tracked with about three weeks turnaround to get the funds out as soon as possible.

To provide further financial assistance to agricultural producers, HDOA’s Agricultural Loan Division is also administering the Emergency Agricultural Loan Program, which provides low-interest emergency loans.Eligible farmers may apply for emergency loans of up to $150,000 at 3 percent interest. Loans of $100,000 or less will not require credit denials from other financial institutions, which would normally be required for agricultural loans. The board also waived the three-year residency requirements normally required for agricultural loans.

Since the program was approved by the Hawaii Board of Agriculture last week, 96 loan applications have been received statewide.

Besides emergency loans, HDOA also offers micro loans for those needing loans of $25,000 or less. Micro loans involve less paperwork and offer swifter processing.

Farmers interested in applying for emergency or micro loans should contact the HDOA office at (808) 973-9460.

In addition, several farmers with existing agricultural loans are working with HDOA’s loan officers to work out payment relief plans.

For more information on agricultural loans, visit hdoa.hawaii.gov/agl/

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