Microloans especially for beginning, niche and small family farmers

PINE BLUFF — New this year, especially for beginning, niche and small family farmers, are microloans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

“The microloan program offers more flexible access to credit and serves as an attractive loan alternative for smaller farming operations, such as specialty crop producers and operators of community supported agriculture,” said Henry English, head of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Eligible applicants may obtain loans up to $35,000 with a repayment period of up to seven years. Loans can be used for start-up expenses; annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer and utilities; marketing and distribution; purchase of livestock and equipment; minor farm improvements; hoop houses to extend the growing season; essential tools; irrigation; delivery vehicles and even family living expenses, English said.

The application process is simpler and requires less paperwork to coincide with the smaller loan amount. And requirements for managerial experience and loan security have been modified to accommodate smaller farm operations, beginning farmers and those with no farm management experience.

Microloan applications are available at FSA offices or can be downloaded from the USDA website. For more information on the FSA microloan program, contact a local FSA office or check the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov.

UAPB Extension associates Arlanda Jacobs and Kandi Williams, and multicounty agent Stephan Walker are also available to help producers develop a farm business plan and help with microloans. Jacobs can be reached at (870) 714-531 and serves producers in Phillips, Lee, Monroe and Arkansas counties; Williams, at (870) 774-0446, serves producers in Little River, Hempstead, Miller, Howard and Lafayette counties; and Walker, (870) 575-7237, helps those in Jefferson, Lincoln, Lonoke and Pulaski counties. Producers outside these areas can contact English at (870) 575-7246.