The USDA has been on the forefront of creating innovation for the ag industry. From grants for environmental stewardship and growth to lunch programs that get our farmer’s produce into public school lunches, the USDA offers a myriad of benefits to ag and non-ag folks alike. In mid-January, the USDA announced a new program to assist underserved farmers with agriculture microloans.
A microloan is just like it sounds—it’s a small loan. The USDA has been offering microloans to people in the ag industry since 2013 for operating expenses like feed and fertilizer, fencing, equipment and tools, and living expenses. These small-dollar loans—up to $50,000—have low interest rates and agreeable repayment terms, making them an attractive product for new farmers and small to medium-scale operations.
Using a New Microloan
While the current microloan program for operating expenses is still in operation, the USDA has added a new microloan component. The latest microloan project is geared towards helping farmers to buy land and improve properties. According to a USDA press release, ag producers have indicated the ability to buy land is one of the greatest challenges in starting a farm operation and growing a business. Furthermore, a microloan can also be used for soil or water conservation projects.
USDA loans are generally open to individuals or groups that meet certain qualifications and these microloan products are no exception. However, the USDA has broadened the scope of who’s eligible for such microloans. These groups include:
- Individuals looking to start a farm business
- Underserved farmers
- U.S. veterans desiring a career in agriculture
- Small and mid-sized farms
Financial standing and creditworthiness is still a consideration to qualify, but the qualifications generally are not as strict as those for other lenders.
Getting More Information
The USDA has also tried to stream-line the application. If you want more information or the forms, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/microloans or contact your local FSA office.