USDA Microloan Program Expanding

Small and short-term, these microloans offer farmers a low-interest alternative for a variety of financial needs.

By Jenny Bryant

To help new and underserved farmers, as well as veterans and those with smaller farming operations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expanding its microloan program. Microloans are small short-term loans that are usually low interest and can be a good alternative for those who want to borrow less than commercial banks normally lend and/or for individuals who are without firmly established credit.

USDA’s FSA administrator, Val Dolcini, reports that they have just celebrated the third anniversary of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) microloan program, “which offers up to $50,000 to help with farm operating costs like feed, fertilizer, tools and living expenses. With about 17,000 microloans already issued, it’s become one of our most popular programs, so we’ve expanded it to include farm ownership, such as land purchases, or constructing or upgrading farm structures.”

Many of these loans are going to individuals new to agriculture. According to Dolcini, “70% of our microloans have gone to new farmers, 50% to new FSA customers, and more than 30% to minorities and women. Access to land is one of the top challenges faced by most new farmers, so similar trends are likely for the new farm ownership microloan.”

For further information about the microloan program, visit FSA online at www.fsa.usda.gov/microloans, or contact your local FSA office.