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Agriculture Help Hotlines

Sluggish commodity prices, combined with weather disasters in many regions, are taking a toll on farmers. 

“Things are starting to heat up,” says Forrest Buhler, Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services, Manhattan. “Over the past two years, lenders could take steps to ease the situation, but fewer options remain. Our ag credit caseload has increased 70% this year from 2016.”

Forty states have a USDA agricultural mediation program staffed with trained and impartial mediators to help review and discuss legal and financial conflicts, and to identify options to resolve disputes with lenders. The services are free, but in some states, the lender must initiate the process. 

“Loans are due, and more lenders are asking producers to call us before renewals,” Buhler says. “We’re seeing a tremendous amount of carryover debt from operating loans and lines of credit. Land and machinery purchases during good times aren’t looking so good now. Land values have dropped, and lenders are nervous about cash flow and equity being eaten up.”

Mental health referrals are available through most ag mediation services. In Wisconsin, a Department of Agriculture program offers vouchers for one-on-one mental health counseling.

Calls picking up

At Iowa Concern, a part of Iowa State University Extension, 25% of calls are ag related, compared with 12% a year ago, says coordinator Margaret Van Ginkel.

“Calls picked up this summer, as lenders said they wanted to meet earlier,” she says. “One Extension farm management specialist reported conflict in a dairy operation. One of the kids has to leave due to finances. Suicide was mentioned. Leases are another source of stress. Negotiations are likely to go down to the wire.”

Referrals to Kansas State’s one-on-one Farm Analyst Program are up by 50% over last year, Buhler says. 

Financial counselors and farm advocates in several states use FINPACK, a financial software package, to analyze operations. In some cases, lenders are asking for an analysis prior to approval of financing.

Ag Help Hotlines

Illinois Agriculture Mediation Program: 618/549-1200, ext. 1001

Rural Services of Indiana, Inc.: 574/299-9460

• Iowa Concern: 800/447-1985

• Iowa Mediation Services, Inc.: 515/331-8081

• Kansas Ag Mediation Services: 800/321-3276

• Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network: 877/898-6326 or 651/201-6327

• Missouri Agricultural Mediation Program: 573/751-5520

• Nebraska Department of Agriculture Negotiations Program: 800/446-4071 

• Nebraska Rural Response Hotline: 800/464-0258

• New York State Ag Mediation Program: 518/687-2240 or 866/669-7267

• New York Farm Net: 800/547-3276

• North Dakota Mediation Service: 844/642-4752 or 701/328-4158

• North Dakota 211 Help Line Mental Health Association in North Dakota: 800/472-2911

• North Dakota Agricultural Mediation Services: 800/642-4757 or 701/328-2061

• South Dakota Ag Mediation Program: 605/773-5436 or 605/280-4745

• South Dakota Rural Help Line: 800/664-1349

• Wisconsin Farm Center Hotline: 800/942-2474

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