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USDA microloan program open to farmers and ranchers

Mar 27, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Area agriculturalists learned about programs that could help keep their operations safe and financially supported during seminars at the Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days in February.

During one session, Brian Harrell, the farm loan manager at the Riverton U.S. Department of Agriculture office, shared information about the microloan program released in 2013. He said the program is designed to help small and family operations secure loans under $35,000.

"(It's) intended to be a little bit of a transition from someone with very little or no farm and ranch experience to get a foot in the door," Harrell said.

Microloans can help in the purchase of livestock, machinery, equipment, fertilizer, seeds or anything else that is not real estate purchases.

"We've closed several of them here in the last couple of months," he said, referring to the loans.

The program helps farmers and ranchers in their start-up years or in the expansion of their operations. When compared to traditional farm loans, the application process for the microloan program is made to be simple, Harrell said.

The applications ask for balance sheets, cash flow projections, employment history, experience, and credit reports. Loans can last up to seven years, depending on the purchase. The current interest rate for the program is 2 percent.

Other ag programs

County executive director Andrea Bryce said she was limited to talking about some programs due to the passing of the Agriculture Act of 2014, also known as the farm bill. The new bill would assign roughly $7 billion to help farmers and establish programs that would provide immediate disaster assistance.

Other programs could help cover losses when prices drop for crops, livestock or other ag production.

Bryce also reminded residents of the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program. The program offers low-interest financing for producers to build or upgrade farm storage and handling facilities. She encouraged farmers and ranchers to visit the USDA office at 508 N. Broadway Ave. to learn about other programs that help with pasture insurance and livestock disaster programs. Her department plans to do outreach when information on the new programs becomes available.

Renewable energy

Rural development area technician Becky Walters said her programs focus on housing. They provide low-income to moderate-income housing loans for single-family dwellings. She also reported on the Renewable Energy for America Program that offers financial assistance to agricultural producers and small businesses so they can purchase and install renewable energy systems.

Walters said her office has installed roughly five solar livestock water projects in areas where electricity is not available. The Renewable Energy System Grant and Loan Guarantee assists with 25 percent of the funding, while the applicant puts in 75 percent.

The USDA shares an office with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Most programs require applicants to be agriculture producers.

For more information, call 856-4807.

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