It is now possible for the small-scale farmer and family farm operation to access microloans through the Department of Agriculture in an amount of up to $35,000. These loans can be used to buy livestock, seeds, equipment, feed, etc. or to make start-up investments in fertilizer, irrigation, marketing, or land rents, among other necessary costs.
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the microloan program in January of 2013 to provide financing options for young, first-time farmers, as well as socially disadvantaged producers. Secretary Vilsack was concerned with the number of veterans and small or beginning farmers who are reduced to credit card debt in order to pursue a farming enterprise. The application process too has been made easier than the larger, traditional loans offered by the Department of Agriculture. After the initial start-up investment, the hope is that these new farmers will be able to expand; in which case, they will have the ability to access the traditional loans of up to $300,000.
Agriculture in the United States is still a leading economy, due to its wealth of superior agricultural land. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, in Pennsylvania alone, agriculture and agribusiness contributes $57 billion to the state’s economy. 63,000 families work more than 7.7 million acres and provide $5.7 billion in cash receipts annually from the production of agriculture. Throughout the country, more than 1 million jobs are created due to agriculture, and the industry earned more than $478 billion in exports between fiscal years 2009-2012, according to data provided by the USDA. In order to maintain this level of production and create the next generation of farmers, the microloan program will provide essential financial assistance to encourage the small farmer to proceed with his or her more modest pursuits in the agricultural community.