Dairies get much-needed PPP loans

OKEECHOBEE — According to data released by the United States Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA), local dairies in Okeechobee were able to receive some much needed relief from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Only July 6 SBA announced it was releasing detailed loan-level data regarding the loans made under PPP designed to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The PPP is an indisputable success for small businesses, especially to the communities in which these employers serve as the main job creators,” said SBA administrator Jovita Carranza. “In three months, this administration was able to act quickly to get funding into the hands of those who faced enormous obstacles as a result of the pandemic. Today’s data shows that small businesses of all types and across all industries benefited from this unprecedented program. The jobs numbers released last week reinforced that PPP is working by keeping employees on payroll and sustaining millions of small businesses through this time.”

The data released was for recipients of loans between $150,000 and $10 million.

The dairy industry was particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 shutdowns, which caused the price of milk to crash dramatically.

The market crash put even more stress on over-leveraged dairy farms that have been in survival mode for the past few years. In the last four to five years, farmers not only in Okeechobee but across the country have dealt with an oversupply problem and a tit-for-tat trade war that kept prices stagnant and put many farms out of business. At the beginning of 2020, it looked like the industry was just starting to climb out of the valley it had been in since 2015. After years of losing money, farms started breaking even or becoming profitable again. But the recovery lasted only a few months before COVID-19 hit.

“It’s a matter of how long can you go without paying your bills,” said dairy farmer Ben Butler of the crash. “Banks are going to do what they can to work with farmers, but at some point the bank is going to say they can’t do any more. I can tell you if we start getting two and three months into this, you start asking yourself where you’re gonna go. Any dairy farmer who tells you they haven’t thought about life after dairy farming isn’t telling you the truth. These last four years has caused all of us to question what we are doing.”

Four dairy farms in Okeechobee were able to be approved for the PPP loan, including Larson Dairy and Macarthur Farms.

The data website Quiver Quantitative took the PPP loan information released and mapped out each recipient geographically. Information in that dataset included the name of the business, addresses, zip codes, business type, name of lender, and jobs supported.

Walpole Inc. and Okeechobee Healthcare Facility were the two recipients of the largest PPP loans in Okeechobee, with each receiving between $2 to $5 million.

You can see the map of PPP loans generated by Quiver Quantitative by visiting www.quiverquant.com/sources/sbaloans.

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