USDA finalizes microloan program

Microloans up to $35,000 aim to assist small farmers, veterans, disadvantaged producers

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

The new program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may 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, according to the USDA.

Administered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency Operating Loan Program, the new microloan program offers credit options and solutions to a variety of producers. In assessing its programs, The Farm Service Agency evaluated the needs of smaller farm operations and any unintended barriers to obtaining financing. For beginning farmers and ranchers, for instance, the new microloan program offers a simplified loan application process. In addition, for those who want to grow niche crops to sell directly to ethnic markets and farmers markets, the microloan 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 the Farm Service Agency’s Guaranteed Loan Program.