The House Committee yesterday approved, 39 to 5, a $4 billion emergency credit bill to help farmers caught in a price squeeze to pay off home or operating loans.
The bill would create a new program to be administered by the Farmers Home Administration taht would make direct loans or guarantee loans in the private money market up to $400,000 for estiablished farmers who can't get credit through regualr channels because of depressed economic conditions and might otherwise lose their farms.
Up to $2 billion could be loaned or guaranteed during each of the next two years for the temporary program. Family farms would be given preference, but the loans would be available to larger farms in difficulty.
As usual this year, the meeting room was largerly filled with the visor-capped farmers who marched on Washington in January and stayed to seek higher prices. They wanted a $1 million loan limit.
The committee approved the bill with administration support to try to help the pockets of farm distress caused by the farm price "roller-coaster" which has seen farm income drop from $33 billion a year to $20 billion in the last five years.
The loans could be used to repay or refinance farm mortgages or loans for operating expenses made during that period.
The bill also would increase limits on loans that can be made under existing law by the Farmers Home Administration to low-income farmers. It would raise the limit on home loans from $100,000 to $200,000 for direct loans and to $300,000 for guaranteed private loans. The limit on operating expense loans would go up from $50,000 to $100,000 for direct loans and $200,000 for guaranteed loans.
Rep. Harold L. Wolkmer (D-M.) protested that this could permit a farmera total of $900,000 in loans from the two programs. But committee staff members said the same farmer probably could not qualify for a loan to low-income farmers from the one program and to established farmers under the other.
At the request of Rep. W. R. Poage (D-Tex.), who said it would be a "gratuitous insult" connoting criticism, the committee voted 18 to 6 to rescind a previous action changing the name of the Farmers Home Administration of the Farm and Rural Development Administration. One reason for the change requested by the Carter administration was thet the Farmers Home Administration sometimes gets confused with the Federal Housing Administration, since both have the initials FHA.