Small farms get big help
Socially disadvantaged, limited-resource agricultural producers face numerous challenges obtaining financial resources through commercial lending institutions because of the risk involved in farming and ranching. Many of the local producers qualify for financing through USDA’s Farm Service Agency but are not aware of their programs. In Texas, Prairie View A&M created a program to enhance the business management and marketing skills of small-scale agricultural producers with bilingual workshops and one-on-one consultations. Targeted clientele learned how to keep and improve production and financial records, and generate personal and farm financial statements. Participants also learned about USDA programs for agricultural commodities and sustainability. Seventy-eight program participants submitted complete, direct loan applications to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in 2017. Those loans were for farm operations, farm ownership, microloans and youth agriculture projects. Successful applicants were able to purchase livestock, farm equipment and land. Some recipients were able to refinance existing debt at discount interest rates. The total money requested amounted to more than $5 million to improve small farms.