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Loan program helps small farms, family operations

January 21, 2013

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a new microloan program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans of less than $35,000.

The program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers might eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations.

The program will also provide a less burdensome, more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans.

“I have met several small and beginning farmers, returning veterans and disadvantaged producers interested in careers in farming who too often must rely on credit cards or personal loans with high interest rates to finance their start-up operations,” Vilsack said.

“By further expanding access to credit to those just starting to put down roots in farming, USDA continues to help grow a new generation of farmers, while ensuring the strength of an American agriculture sector that drives our economy, creates jobs and provides the most secure and affordable food supply in the world.”

The new microloans, said Vilsack, represent how USDA continues to make year-over-year gains in expanding credit opportunities for minority, socially-disadvantaged and young and beginning farmers and ranchers across the U.S.

For those who want to grow niche crops to sell directly to ethnic markets and farmers markets, the program offers a path to obtain financing. 

Producers can apply for a maximum of $35,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses.

As their financing needs increase, applicants can apply for an operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Program.

Producers interested in applying for a loan can contact their local Farm Service Agency office. In Washington County, it is at 1260 Maryland Ave., suite 107, Hagerstown, MD 21740, or call 301-797-0500, ext. 2.

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