Beginning farmers don’t need much money to get started. But until now, the USDA had no way of giving them any loans at all.
the USDA announced that it’s working towards the creation of a new microloan program that would hand out loans for less than $35,000. Applicants can use “simplified and streamlined procedures,” which means less paperwork for young farmers to wade through and less paperwork for the USDA to process. It’s exactly the sort of program that groups like the NYFC have been asking the USDA to put into place.
“This is very much at the top of our list,” Lusher Shute says. “It’s making an appropriate loan size and application for a new farmer who doesn’t want to be in debt for hundreds of thousands, because they don’t have a business to back it up.”
The program’s not specifically tailored for beginning or young farmers, though. The USDA’s notice about the programs say it’s meant to meet the needs of “very small family farm operations.” But those are the types of farms that new farmers, dedicated to organic agriculture, tend to be creating—at least for the moment—and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised “a new vibrancy across the countryside as younger people…pursue livelihoods in farming, raising food for local consumption” in the department’s announcement of the microloan program. The NYFC is going to be watching to make sure that young farmers who’ve been gaining experience by apprenticing on established farms qualify for the program. But right now, it feels like their work to reform these farm loan programs is paying off.
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