Bennet: Expanded Access to Farm Loans Benefits Colorado’s Beginning, Family Farmers

USDA Announces Expanded Eligibility for Farm Loans, Seeks Producers Feedback

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today applauded the announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will expand eligibility and increase lending limits for USDA microloans to help more beginning and family farmers. Along with raising the borrowing limit for the microloan program from $35,000 to $50,000, USDA is also working to simplify the lending process, update the “farming experience” requirements, and expand the types of entities that are eligible.

“Colorado’s economy relies heavily on a thriving agricultural industry that is responsible for around $40 billion in economic activity every year,” Bennet said. “Much of that is thanks to our family farmers. These loans support these small farming operations and help new farmers get up and running. Expanding eligibility will also help even more folks that want to get into farming, such as our veterans transitioning to life outside the military. This is good for Colorado agriculture and good for the state’s economy.”

The microloan changes announced today will allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access an additional $15,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay. The changes become effective November 7.

In addition to farm related experience, other types of skills may be considered to meet the direct farming experience required for farm loan eligibility such as operation or management of a non-farm business, leadership positions while serving in the military, or advanced education in an agricultural field. Also, individuals who own farmland under a different legal entity operating the farm now may be eligible for loans administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). Producers will have an opportunity to share suggestions on the microloan process, and the definitions of farming experience and business structures through Dec. 8, 2014, the public open comment period.

These programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill that Bennet helped craft and pass with input from Colorado producers. He fought to ensure it included Colorado priorities such as a strengthened crop insurance program, an improved conservation easement program, the reauthorization of the livestock disaster program, and an extension of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Bennet recently sponsored a bill to ensure farmers have safe and modern ditch and irrigation infrastructure and received the National Farmers Union Golden Triangle Award for the sixth time.