The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now offering a new online tool designed to help farmers and ranchers find information on USDA farm loans that may best fit their operations.
The new Farm Loan Discovery Tool is available as the newest feature on the department’s self-service website for farmers — farmers.gov.
“Access to credit is critical in the agriculture industry, especially for new farmers,” Bill Northey, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, said in a released statement. “This new interactive tool can help farmers find information on USDA farm loans within minutes. We are working to improve our customer service, and part of our solution is through improving how farmers can work with us online.”
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers a variety of loan options to help farmers finance their operations — from buying land to financing the purchase of equipment.
Compared to this time last year, FSA has seen an 18 percent increase in the amount it has obligated for direct farm ownership loans, and through the 2018 Farm Bill, has increased the limits for several loan products.
In preparation for the unveiling of the new online tool, the USDA conducted field research in eight states, gathering input from farmers and FSA farm loan staff to better understand their needs and challenges.
“We received suggestions from both farmers and our staff on how to improve the farm loan process, and we wanted to harness this opportunity to be more efficient and effective,” Northey said. “This feature is one step in our efforts.”
Farmers who are looking for financing options to operate a farm or buy land can answer a few questions about what they are looking to fund and how much money they need to borrow. After submitting their answers, farmers will be provided information on farm loans that best fit their specific needs. The loan application and additional resources also will be provided.
Farmers can download application quick guides that outline what to expect from preparing an application to receiving a loan decision. There are four guides that cover loans to individuals, entities and youth, as well as information on microloans. The guides include general eligibility requirements and a list of required forms and documentation for each type of loan. These guides can help farmers prepare before their first USDA service center visit with a loan officer.
Farmers can access the Farm Loan Discovery Tool by visiting farmers.gov/fund and clicking the “Start” button. They then must follow the prompts and answer five questions to receive loan information that is applicable to specific agricultural operation.
The tool is built to run on any modern browser like Chrome, Edge, Firefox or the Safari browser and is fully functional on mobile devices. It does not work in Internet Explorer.
In 2018, USDA unveiled farmers.gov, a mobile-friendly public website combined with an authenticated portal where farmers will be able to apply for programs, process transactions and manage accounts.
“Many farmers are out in their fields using equipment that is connected to satellite and GPS technology, yet when they need to interact with USDA, they have to stop, fill out a paper form, and fax or carry it to their local office. That is a real digital divide,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “Our staff is friendly, and they love to see farmers in person, but they know that time is valuable. Producers are working hard to make their farms profitable, so these tools will help get the paperwork done without taking a big chunk out of the day to fill out forms.”
In addition to the interactive farm loan features, the site also offers a Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool. Farmers can visit farmers.gov/recover/disaster-assistance-tool#step-1 to find disaster assistance programs that can help their operation recover from natural disasters.