The United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency has a solution for farms and farmers alike looking to branch out or start up anew.
A discussion was held Wednesday at the Frank W. Bratt Agricultural Center in Jamestown to discuss the availability of microloans for farmers. Along with Cornell Cooperative Extension employees, representatives from the Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's office were present to discuss how to secure a microloan designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
According to Nancy Mundo, USDA-FSA representative, a microloan is defined as a direct farm operating loan, either annual or term, that does not exceed $35,000. Microloans have a simplified application process and paperwork and verification requirements that are more proportional to smaller loans and operations.
"A few reasons (a farmer) might be approved for a microloan are to eliminate the use of high-cost personal loans and high-interest credit cards, or to assist the agricultural community by creating opportunities to start new businesses," said Mundo.
Mundo also said that microloans can be used for operating expenses including, but not limited to: initial start-up expenses, annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, and rent, marketing and distribution expenses, family living expenses, purchase of livestock, equipment, and other materials essential to farm operations, minor farm improvements such as wells and coolers, hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation and delivery vehicles.
In order to secure a microloan through the USDA-FSA, farmers need to meet a few eligibility requirements. According to Mundo, farmers seeking a microloan through the USDA-FSA need to: be the operator of a farm or have had sufficient managerial ability, be unable to obtain credit elsewhere but have an acceptable credit history, and be a citizen of the United States, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien. Mundo recommended visiting www.fsa.usda.gov to speak further with an FSA loan officer about eligibility.
Forms necessary to apply for a USDA-FSA microloan can be obtained by visiting forms.sc.egov.usda.gov/eForms/welcomeAction.do?Home.