Tue., February 5, 2013 4:23pm (EST)

USDA Offers Farm Micro Loans
By Ellen Reinhardt
Updated: 1 year ago

ATLANTA  —  
The USDA is now offering micro loans to farmers of up to 35 thousand dollars. Agriculture officials believe the small loans will encourage more people to get into farming. (photo by Jeanne Bonner)
The USDA is now offering micro loans to farmers of up to 35 thousand dollars. Agriculture officials believe the small loans will encourage more people to get into farming. (photo by Jeanne Bonner)
The USDA is now offering micro loans to farmers of up to 35 thousand dollars. Agriculture officials believe the small loans will encourage more people to get into farming.

Lynn Barber, executive secretary with the Georgia Young Farmers Association, says the biggest hurdle to becoming a farmer is financing.

He says “If they do not grow up on a farm, or have the family connections that can help them get started, financing is crucial. Loans like these, that can help someone get in at the ground level, maybe start a small endeavor and grow from there, are vitally important.”

David Laster, loan chief of the Georgia Farm Service Agency, says the loans have 1 to 7 year terms. He says the amount of paperwork has been cut.

“Where the applicant has to provide a lot of supporting data with our traditional loan programs to support their production history, that’s been relaxed a little bit for the microloan.”he says.

Laster says thousands of Georgians are eligible for the micro loans.Barber says you’d be surprised who is interested in agriculture.

He says “We’re seeing just a surge of people, not only in Georgia but nationwide, that maybe have worked a full-time career and are entering retirement and want to farm on the side. Maybe do it as a hobby, or a productive hobby you know to earn some extra income.”

The Georgia Farm Service Agency has also been getting calls from organic farmers, who have small operations.

The interest rates on these loans is just over 1 percent.

David Laster says while they hope new farmers will take advantage of the program, it’s also open to experienced farmers.

“If they just needed a smaller loan to purchase, say they needed 25 thousand to buy a used piece of equipment, this would be ideal for that.”he says.

The program is also open to urban farmers, those who have small plots to serve city neighborhoods.