Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 1986, specifically to meet the needs of financially distressed family farmers. The primary purpose of this legislation was to give family farmers facing bankruptcy a chance to reorganize their debts and keep their farms.
In tailoring Chapter 12 to meet the economic realities of family farming, this law has eliminated many of the barriers that family farmers had faced when seeking to reorganize successfully under either Chapter 11 or 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. For example, 12 is more streamlined, less complicated, and less expensive than Chapter 11, which is better suited to the large corporate reorganization. In addition, few family farmers find Chapter 13 to be advantageous, because it was designed for wage earners who have smaller debts than those facing family farmers. In Chapter 12, Congress sought combine the features of the Bankruptcy Code, which can provide a framework for successful family reorganization. At the time of the enactment of Chapter 12, Congress could not be sure whether Chapter 12 relief for the family farmers would be required indefinitely.
The Act was to originally expire on October 1, 1993, but it was extended a number of times without expiring until it was made permanent by the 2005 BAPCPA.
The Bankruptcy Code provides that only a family farmer with “regular annual income” may file a petition for relief under Chapter 12. 11 U.S.C. §§101(18), 109(f). The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the debtor’s annual income is sufficiently stable and regular to permit the debtor to make payments under a Chapter 12 plan. Allowance is under Chapter 12, however, for situations in which family farmers may have income that is seasonal in nature. Relief under this Chapter is voluntary; thus, only the debtor may file a petition under Chapter 12.