Access to capital is critical to beginning farmers and ranchers. Farming requires money for purchases such as land, buildings, fences, tractors and seed. There are many opportunities for securing capital–most in the form of loans. The information on this page identifies key lenders and resources to help you prepare for the application process.
Prepare for Credit
Understanding Agricultural Lending
The first step on the path to securing credit is to learn the basics about agricultural lending. Understanding how lenders review loan applications and what information they require will help you get ready.
Guide to Agricultural Credit
Farmers Guide to Agricultural Credit, Rural Advancement Foundation International
Financing Agriculture: The Business Borrower-Lender Relationship, Northwest Farm Credit Service
Keep Financial Records
Good record keeping allows you to set and track progress toward your financial goals, enables you to make informed decisions about your business, and demonstrates your ability to generate revenue and pay off debt. Financial records, such as a balance sheet or income statement, also provide the data you need to prepare financial statements that lenders may require with the loan application.
Farm Financial Record Keeping
Keep good records to make informed decisions to improve the profitability of your farm.
Develop a Plan
A business plan is a written document outlining the goals, strategies and action plans for important areas of your farm operation, including management, finance, production and marketing. It should include enough information so that other people understand what you want to do and how you plan to do.
Guide to Developing a Business
Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Business
Know Your Credit Score
Your credit score shows your ability to borrow money and pay it back, pay bills on time and act in a financially responsible way. A credit score is an indicator of your credit-worthiness. Before applying for a loan, know your score and be prepared to answer questions a lender might have about your credit history.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
Tap into the Experts
To get help setting up a record-keeping system, preparing financial statements and/or developing a business plan, contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent, State Department of Agriculture, local Farm Credit, or commercial lending institution.
Find a Lender
Farm Credit Network
In 1916 Congress enacted a law to establish the Farm Credit System (FCS) to provide a reliable source of financing for farmers. FCS is a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions and specialized service organizations that provide loans and other services to agricultural producers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agri-businesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives. According to the federal Farm Credit Administration—which regulates and examines FCS—FCS is the largest agricultural lender in the United States. To locate a Farm Credit institution near you, visit the Farm Credit network website.Farm Credit Network
State Loan Programs
State finance programs provide low interest loans, loan guarantees, and loan participation programs to help producers buy land, buildings, equipment and breeding livestock. Some programs, including “Aggie Bond” programs, are targeted specifically to beginning farmers. The National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs tracks available programs and produces a comprehensive directory of state-level programs available to beginning and established producers.
USDA Farm Service Agency
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides direct and guaranteed loans to farmers and ranchers unable to obtain financing from other lenders for operating expenses and land purchases. Microloans are direct farm operating loans with a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche type operations.
To find out more about program eligibility and/or the application process, contact FSA, typically located in your local USDA service center.
Local Commercial Banks
Your local bank may also be a potential source for credit. Many banks participate with agencies in providing financing to beginning farmers through state loan programs, including “Aggie Bond” Programs”, and/or may offer loans guaranteed by FSA. Although it is uncommon, some banks have created local financing initiatives that link funds from depositors to a special lending pool available to beginning farmers. Ask your local bank if such a program is available.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is a regional competitive grants and education program operating in every state. The program, supported by USDA, is run by four regions—North Central, Northeast, South and West, each guided by a volunteer Administrative Council that makes grants and sets regional priorities. SARE’s four regions offer an array of competitive grants for farmers and ranchers (and researchers, agricultural educators, and students) in the United States.SARE Grants
State Departments of Agriculture
State Departments of Agriculture may offer grants to farmers to implement conservation practices, expand market opportunities, develop new products or provide assistance with business planning. These opportunities may be available to new and experienced farmers and typically can be found listed on State Departments of Agriculture websites under Funding Opportunities or Programs.NASDA's Directory
USDA Rural Development
USDA’s Rural Development Value Added Producer Grant program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Priority may be given to a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative. Each fiscal year, applications are requested through an announcement posted on Grants.gov.USDA Rural Development
You can find more information about preparing for credit from the websites below, as well as a wealth of information about agricultural production and marketing assistance.
- ATTRA, a sustainable agriculture assistance program managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology
- Farm Answers, a USDA-NIFA beginning farmer and rancher clearinghouse, providing resources to help farmers get started, as well as tools to help more seasoned producers succeed.
- New Farmers, information from USDA about USDA programs for beginning farmers and ranchers
- Grants and Incentives for Northeast Agriculture, Farm Credit East
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