USDA expands microloans to help farmers purchase farmland, improve property

US Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden has announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin offering farm ownership microloans, creating a new financing avenue for farmers to buy and improve property. These microloans will be especially helpful to beginning or underserved farmers, US veterans looking for a career in farming, and those who have small and mid-sized farming operations.

“Many producers, especially new and underserved farmers, tell us that access to land is one of the biggest challenges they face in establishing and growing their own farming operation,” said Harden. “USDA is making it easier for new farmers to hit the ground running and get access to the land that they need to establish their farms or improve their property.”

The microloan program, which celebrates its third anniversary this week, has been hugely successful, providing more than 16,800 low-interest loans, totaling over $373 million to producers across the country. Microloans have helped farmers and ranchers with operating costs, such as feed, fertilizer, tools, fencing, equipment, and living expenses since 2013. Seventy percent of loans have gone to new farmers.

Now, microloans will be available to also help with farm land and building purchases, and soil and water conservation improvements. FSA designed the expanded program to simplify the application process, expand eligibility requirements and expedite smaller real estate loans to help farmers strengthen their operations. Microloans provide up to $50,000 to qualified producers, and can be issued to the applicant directly from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson called the announcement great news for rural America. “Beginning and underserved farmers face the same financial challenges when entering agriculture as established producers, but do so with considerably weaker balance sheets. These challenges include high land prices, rising input and equipment costs, and living expenses,” said Johnson. “We’re very pleased to see an expansion in this loan program aimed at helping these farmers acquire land and access the tools they need to succeed.”

“This expansion makes several important improvements to bolster the effectiveness and timeliness of the microloan program,” noted Johnson. “We are confident USDA will continue to work to fine-tune its loan offerings, making them more timely, efficient and effective for those who rely on them, and we are excited to continue working closely with them throughout the process,” he said.

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