Monday, December 22, 2014

USDA loans available for small and beginning farmers and ranchers

Microloan Cap Grows to $50,000

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds farmers and ranchers that the FSA borrowing limit for microloans increased from $35,000 to $50,000, effective Nov. 7.

Microloans offer borrowers simplified lending with less paperwork. FSA developed the Microloan program to better serve the unique financial operating needs of beginning, niche and small family farm operations. The loan features a streamlined application process built to fit the needs of new and smaller producers. This loan program will also be useful to specialty crop producers and operators of community supported agriculture (CSA).  

The microloan change allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access an additional $15,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay. Microloans are part of USDA’s continued commitment to small and midsized farming operations.

Eligible applicants can apply for a maximum amount of $50,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses.  As financing needs increase, applicants can apply for a regular operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Program.

To complement the microloan program additional changes to FSA eligibility requirements will enhance beginning farmers and ranchers access to land, a key barrier to entry level producers. FSA policies related to farm experience have changed so that other types of skills may be considered to meet the direct farming experience required for farm ownership loan eligibility. Operation or management of non-farm businesses, leadership positions while serving in the military or advanced education in an agricultural field will now count towards the experience applicants need to show when applying for farm ownership loans.
Since 2010, FSA has made a record amount of farm loans — more than 165,000 loans totaling nearly $23 billion. More than 50 percent of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers. In addition, FSA has increased its lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2010.

Individuals who are interested in applying for a microloan or would like to discuss other farm loan programs available should contact their local FSA office to set up an appointment with a loan official. Please review the FSA Microloan Program Fact Sheet for program application, eligibility and related information. 

Beginning Farmer Loans

FSA assists beginning farmers to finance agricultural enterprises. Under these designated farm loan programs, FSA can provide financing to eligible applicants through either direct or guaranteed loans. FSA defines a beginning farmer as a person who:

• Has operated a farm for not more than 10 years.
• Will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm.
• Agrees to participate in a loan assessment, borrower training and financial management program sponsored by FSA.
• Does not own a farm in excess of 30 percent of the county’s average size farm.

Additional program information, loan applications, and other materials are available at your local USDA Service Center.  You may also visit 

Youth Loans

The Farm Service Agency makes loans to youth to establish and operate agricultural income-producing projects in connection with 4-H clubs, FFA and other agricultural groups. Projects must be planned and operated with the help of the organization advisor, produce sufficient income to repay the loan and provide the youth with practical business and educational experience. The maximum loan amount is $5000.

Youth Loan Eligibility Requirements:
• Be a citizen of the United States (which includes Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) or a legal resident alien
• Be 10 years to 20 years of age
• Comply with FSA’s general eligibility requirements
• Be unable to get a loan from other sources
• Conduct a modest income-producing project in a supervised program of work as outlined above
• Demonstrate capability of planning, managing and operating the project under guidance and assistance from a project advisor.

The project supervisor must recommend the youth loan applicant, along with providing adequate supervision.
Stop by the county office for help preparing and processing the application forms. 

Loans for the Socially Disadvantaged

FSA has a number of loan programs available to assist applicants to begin or continue in agriculture production.  Loans are available for operating type loans and/or purchase or improve farms or ranches. 
While all qualified producers are eligible to apply for these loan programs, the FSA has provided priority funding for members of socially disadvantaged applicants. 

A socially disadvantaged applicant is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice because of his or her identity as members of the group without regard to his or her individual qualities. 
For purposes of this program, socially disadvantaged groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

FSA loans are only available to applicants who meet all the eligibility requirements and are unable to obtain the needed credit elsewhere.

For the latest on 2014 Farm Bill programs administered by FSA, please visit our Farm Bill website at and for an FSA program overview please read, download and/or print our recently posted FSA Farm Bill Fact Sheet titled, What’s in the 2014 Farm Bill for Farm Service Agency Customers?
For more information on FSA, please contact your local USDA Service Center or visit us online at

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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