The recently passed Farm Bill extension gutted several popular programs for beginning and organic farmers. The USDA is stepping in to help these farmers by providing low interest loans.
Through the new program, certain farmers can apply for microloans of up to $35,000. The loans are designed to help family farms that sell their food locally. The USDA is especially interested in attracting military and minority applicants who might have trouble qualifying for first time loans. Deirdre Burmingham runs an organic farm in rural Iowa County. She says small farmers don’t always need $100,000, or a $1 million loan, “We try to avoid that as much as possible — loans — and people should only use them to reach the next step. They have a solid business plan and show they can repay the loan.”
Right now, the Farm Bill extension provides subsidies for farmers who grow commodities and dairy producers. Harriet Behar is an organics specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service. She says the USDA is trying to help the farmers that were left out of the recent legislation, “I think the USDA are reaching out to farmers and saying we might not be able to help you as much with the safety net: maybe we can do this revolving loan and help you that way.
According to the USDA, the new loan program will also include a more simplified application process.