Resources for Managing Farm Finances
Questions occasionally come to our office as well as other local agricultural offices regarding financial assistance for farm operations. Beginning farms, youth farming projects, and emergencies are just a few examples of needs we might hear about. I thought it might be nice to communicate some of the resources available to local residents and new farmers in Sampson County, through programs found at the USDA Farm Service Agency and the NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation district.
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has several farm loan options for those starting, expanding, or changing a farming operation. Examples of these would be farm operating and ownership loans, emergency farm loans, guaranteed farm loans, minority and women farmer loans, rural youth loans, and beginning farmer and rancher loans. Information on these FSA loans, as well as applications, can be found by visiting: www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-service/farm-loan-programs
Microloans are another source of assistance through FSA. The microloan borrowing limit is currently $50,000 (as of November 2014). The microloan program allows beginning farmers of small and midsized operations a simplified application and up to seven years to pay off the loan. In addition to farming experience, now the microloan program allows for applicants with non-farm business experience, military leadership backgrounds, and advanced agricultural education experience to count towards meeting application criteria. According to the FSA office, “since 2010, more than 50% of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers”. For more information on the FSA loan programs, contact the Sampson County FSA office at 910-592-4791 and ask for a farm loan officer.
The Sampson Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS offer various programs to treat natural resource concerns. Two of the most common programs are the Agricultural Cost Share Program (ACSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Both of these programs offer financial and technical assistance for farming operations that commit to installing best management practices (BMP) to address non-point source pollution on their farm. There are more than 60 approved BMPs that are available for cost share assistance, and a list can be found by visiting: www.ncagr.gov/SWC/index.html in the ACSP section of the site. Information on the EQIP and other federal programs can be found at www.nrcs.usda.gov. Some examples of available practices include cropland conversion, cover crops, field borders, erosion control practices and many others. For information and help with the ACSP or EQIP, contact the SWCD office at 910-592-4791.
The Cooperative Extension Center can also provide technical assistance to beginning or established farmers in many ways. If advising is needed with regard to meeting criteria for cost share assistance or farm loans, agricultural extension agents are trained in specific areas that will be beneficial to growers. Agents can be reached at the Sampson Cooperative Extension Center by calling 910-592-7161 or by visiting the website: www.sampson.ces.ncsu.edu.
Note: Special thanks to Gavin Thompson and Melanie Harris (SWCD/NRCS) and Michael Brown (FSA) for their contributions to this article.