USDA expands online loan payment pilot

The Agriculture Department is expanding a payment program that allows agriculture producers to request and receive loan deficiency payments online.

The pilot project has been available in 21 counties since May 2002. The expansion will include 50 counties, with each state having one participating county.

The service allows producers receive loan deficiency payments (LDP) online rather than having to travel to a USDA Service Center. The e-LDP project, part of an e-government initiative, reduces paperwork and speeds processing, Agriculture officials said.

"This program saves America's farmers and ranchers time, energy and money, and it is an example of how USDA is harnessing the power of the Internet to better serve producers," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in a statement.

A loan deficiency payment is the difference between the loan rate at a given location and the market price for the commodity, such as barley, corn and oats. LDPs are given to producers who are eligible for loans, but agree to forego them, officials said. Rice and peanuts producers can now participate in the pilot, which was previously limited to barley, corn, grain sorghum, oats, peanuts, rice, soybeans and wheat, officials said.

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