Most farmers rely on credit to maintain their operations and keep their farms viable and sustainable. Yet, small and beginning farmers have unique financing needs, usually requiring smaller amounts of capital to market a more diverse array of products than lenders are accustomed to. Often turned away by traditional lenders and federal farm lending programs, small and beginning farmers are forced look to less appealing options like financing their farms on high-interest credit cards or personal loans.
It’s a problem we’ve brought up several times to officials at the White House and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year, on the heels of the country’s dramatic economic downturn, we released Don’t Bank On It, a report highlighting what farm financial counselors across the country were hearing from farmers and ranchers: it was harder to get credit at the very time they needed it most.
Well, it seems as though our message was heard! A new rule proposed by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) suggests federal programs will be better equipped to meet the needs of America’s small farmers. The rule, announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last week, creates a new microloan program for small and beginning farmers, providing loans of up to $35,000. These smaller loans are tailored to provide enough capital for farmers to cover the costs of running a smaller-scale operation, with a simplified and streamlined application process.
Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until July 23, 2012. Make your voice heard in support of this and other programs like it that support the needs of small, beginning and sustainable family farmers—click here to view the rule and submit your comments in support of this important work!