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Ag secretary tells farmers more loan money is coming

It's getting easier for farmers to get direct federal loans.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in West Salem yesterday that $760 million has been made available for USDA ownership and operating loans that were previously approved, but were not funded until now.

Vilsack, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Gov. Jim Doyle all appeared at the La Crosse Interstate Fair in West Salem.

It was part of a rural tour set up by the Obama administration.

Vilsack said the new loan money will clear up millions in backlogs for about 4,000 farm loans that were approved but not funded.

About 200 people attended the meeting. Some asked for help in the face of the recession and a drop in farm milk prices.

A woman from Cornell said she would have to sell her cows in six months if federal price supports are not increased.

Also, Vilsack heard requests to crack down on larger farms accused of bending rules on labeling foods as organic, thus causing unfair competition.

Organic farmers held their own rally at the fair.

The Republican National Committee set up a conference call to respond to the event.

Former state Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch of West Salem said rural areas are getting too little of the federal stimulus money and he said the cabinet secretaries were "coming to sell us a bill of goods that simply isn't the case."