Senate OKs Lauwers bill to update the state’s agricultural disaster relief program

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate has passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, that would update the state’s agricultural disaster relief program and enable farmers to apply soon for low-interest qualified loans.

Senate Bill 693 would update the Agricultural Disaster Loan Origination Program to reflect the specific needs of the 2019 season and allow lenders to begin issuing loans with the $15 million appropriated by the Legislature in June 2019, which would provide access to up to $300 million in loans.

Lauwers abstained from voting on the bill, citing a potential personal financial interest.

“Because my farm may be eligible for the Michigan Agricultural Disaster Loan Origination Program, and out of an abundance of caution, I will not vote on Senate Bill 693,” Lauwers said before the vote.

While it’s uncommon for lawmakers to abstain from voting on a bill they sponsored, Lauwers said there’s a difference between voting on a bill and sponsoring a bill.

“I’m a farmer and agriculture has been my life—and I know this particular issue very well,” Lauwers said. “I am very well equipped to work on these issues, so it made sense for me to author this bill.”

The Agricultural Disaster Loan Origination Program is a partnership between farmers and processors, private lenders, and the state to support the agriculture industry through loss of crops due to weather-related disasters.

The program provides growers and agribusinesses low-interest loans, and it gives farmers the peace of mind that they can take out a loan based on their qualified losses to cover their everyday expenses, including machinery, land and infrastructure payments.

“Farms across the state suffered tremendous losses this year due to the incredibly wet spring we had,” Lauwers said. “Updating this program will provide farmers with a better cash-flow position and offer peace of mind that they don’t have to sell the family farm.”

Among other changes, SB 693 would update the interest rate to the five-year U.S. Treasury Note rate plus 2% and extend the lending period to seven years.

SB 693 is now before the Michigan House of Representatives.