USDA Farm Service Agency director talks with agribusinesses about resources

Sep. 14—ATHENS — USDA's Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Arthur Tripp recently visited with students, faculty, and local elected officials at Georgia Southern University and the Georgia Grown Innovation Center to discuss the ways in which USDA supports small agribusiness owners.

"Having the opportunity to visit the innovation center was truly remarkable," Tripp said. "We had great conversations with producers and current business owners about how USDA may be able to provide resources to accomplish their goals. It was an excellent opportunity to highlight programs that FSA provides to support agribusiness owners as well as resources available through Rural Development, such as the Value-Added Producer Grant."

One resource that FSA offers small agribusinesses is the microloan. The Farm Service Agency developed the microloan program to better serve the unique financial operating needs of new, niche, and small to mid-sized family farm operations. FSA microloans offer more flexible access to credit and serve as an attractive loan alternative for smaller farming operations, like specialty crop producers and operators of community supported agriculture. These smaller farms, including non-traditional farm operations, often face limited financing options.

There are two types of microloans issued directly to the applicant from FSA: Farm Operating Loans and Farm Ownership Loans. Operating microloans can be used for all approved operating expenses, including but not limited to, initial start-up expenses; annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents; 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.

Ownership microloans can be used for all approved ownership expenses, such as purchase of a farm or farmland, enlarging an existing farm, constructing new farm buildings, improving existing farm buildings, paying closing costs, and implementing soil and water conservation and protection practices.

The microloan application process is streamlined, requiring less paperwork to complete, consistent with a smaller loan amount. Requirements for managerial experience and loan security have been modified to accommodate veterans, smaller farm operations, and beginning farmers. Applicants may apply for microloans totaling a combined maximum of $100,000: up to $50,000 for a farm ownership loan and up to $50,000 for an operating loan.

FSA offers an extensive portfolio of direct and guaranteed loans in addition to microloans and offers loan servicing options for borrowers who cannot make their loan payments to FSA for reasons beyond their control. A Farm Loan Discovery Tool is available online to help determine the loan program that fits best with each unique agricultural enterprise.

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