There was more good news last week for small and mid-sized farmers with an announcement from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about new efforts from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve smaller farms.
This includes an expansion of the Farm Storage and Facility Loan Program, which provides low-interest financing to producers. Since its inception in May 2000, the program has made over $33,000 loans, mostly to large and commodity farmers. The changes to the program will make it easier for diversified small and medium sized farmers to quality. It also expands how the funds can be used to include produce cold storage and handling, with 23 new categories of eligible equipment including sorting bins, wash stations and other food safety related equipment. The loans will also have less strict security requirements, with loans up to $100,000 secured only by a promissory note. The USDA is also developing new tools to help these farmers and ranchers make better financial decisions when planning for their future, including a whole farm insurance policy that will better meet their needs.
While time will tell how these products perform in the marketplace, it shows a growing recognition among government officials of the importance of smaller, diversified farms.