Microloans Expand Small Farm Finance Options in California

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From: USDA Farm Service Agency

Microloans Expand Small Farm Finance Options in California

“2013 was a great start for microloan program and overall loan activity,” State Director Says

(DAVIS, CA) Dec. 9, 2013— Beginning and established farmers and ranchers from throughout California took advantage of the USDA Microloan program in 2013 to finance many different kinds of farming operations. As of December 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) had made 114 microloans in California for a total of $2.5 million. The microloan is designed to help farmers and ranchers with credit needs of $35,000 or less and it features a streamlined application and a simplified qualification process built to fit the needs of new and smaller producers. The current interest rate is 1.875% and the repayment terms are up to seven years.

“The microloan is more customer-friendly than our larger, more traditional loan programs,” said California State Executive Director Val Dolcini. “Farms and ranches seeking a smaller loan for start-up or operational needs now have a great new tool to consider and it makes much more sense than financing your operation with a high-interest credit card.”

“For those selling at Farmers’ Markets or through community-supported agriculture operations (CSAs), a microloan can work quite well,” Dolcini continued. “And the reduced paperwork associated with the microloan helps expedite the process for everyone. This year, we funded operations ranging from small cattle ranches to innovative irrigation systems to organic fruit and vegetable cultivation and in doing so, we’ve helped build businesses, expand markets, and create new economic opportunities throughout rural California. I look for an even bigger year for the microloan program in 2014.”

Overall, FSA provided $120 million in farm loan assistance in fiscal year 2013 to farmers and ranchers throughout California. 700 annual operating loans accounted for the majority of the loans made to farmers and ranchers, while farm ownership loans totaled 102. “California farmers should contact their nearest FSA office for additional details on the Microloan program and other FSA services,” said Dolcini.

Dolcini is particularly proud of his agency’s outreach to beginning farmers, minority populations and underserved areas. More than half (56.8%) of FSA’s overall lending in California went to women and minority farmers. In addition, over 280 loans were made to beginning farmers and over 250 loans went to FFA and 4-H members helping to pave the way for the next generation of Golden State farmers. Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 160,000 loans to family farmers across the nation totaling nearly $20 billion.