Thursday, February 7, 2013

Attention Farmers: Workshop on USDA's New Microloan Program

Farmers' Workshop on USDA's Microloan Program with Central Texas' FSA Loan Manager
Tuesday, March 5th  (10am - Noon)
Travis County's East Service Center ("Blue Bluff"): 6011 Blue Bluff Rd. Austin TX
Register at, keyword "loan"
Registration is $15; light refreshments served.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Travis County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency are working together to inform Central Texas urban farmers about the new USDA Microloan program.  

A joint Microloan Workshop will be presented from 10 a.m.-noon March 5 at Travis County's East Service Center, located at 6011 Blue Bluff Rd. in Austin.

Coordinators said the new USDA Microloan program was designed with small-scale producers in mind and may be an excellent fit for urban farmers needing capital to launch or expand their operations.

The new Microloan program is administered through the Farm Services Agency and provides various low-interest credit options for small agricultural producers, according to USDA officials. The simplified loan application process and modified eligibility requirements are well-suited to beginning farmers, ranchers, and CSA operators, and for farmers wanting to grow “niche crops” to sell to ethnic markets or farmers markets, it may also provide a means of financing. 

“Last fall, beginning urban farmers came from 11 Central Texas counties to Extension’s three-week Strong Starts: Urban Farming 101 series,” said Daphne Richards, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture in Travis County.  “Extension specialists traveled from across the state to teach everything from farm business planning and budgeting to crop selection and cultivation strategies.”

Richards said the series included presentations from county and state officials involved in food system policy development, as well as representatives of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“At that program, USDA Farm Service Agency loan manager Terri Trevino was among the presenters. She informed beginning urban farmers about USDA’s financing options and began initial development of funder/farmer relationships.

“Feedback was overwhelmingly positive from both the farmer participants and presenters, so when the USDA initiated this Microloan program a month ago, Terri contacted us to see if our agency could help the USDA get the word out through our urban farming program and the Strong Starts initiative.”   

Richards said AgriLife Extension coordinated with the local FSA office to help make Trevino’s presentation on Microloans available to the entire Central Texas farming community, so they decided on a larger venue for an inexpensive “stand-alone” workshop. 

Qualifying farmers and ranchers may apply for a maximum of $35,000 to be used toward initial start-up expenses, USDA officials explained. And as their needs increase, they may apply for an additional operating loan of up to $300,000 -- or seek commercial-lender financing from an institution within its Guaranteed Loan Program.

Officials said farm loans can be used for a variety of purposes, including buying land, delivery vehicles, livestock, seed, feed and supplies, or for farm improvements such as wells, coolers, hoop houses, and irrigation systems. 

“At this event, AgriLife Extension in Travis County also hopes to survey participants about their informational and educational needs, so that we may support their continued growth and success as urban farmers,” Richards noted.

The workshop cost is $15 and those interested may register online at the AgriLife Extension Conference Services website, Enter “loan” in the keyword search field or “Austin” in the location field.

Producers interested in applying for a microloan should contact their local Farm Service Agency office. For more information about the March 5 workshop, contact Trevino at

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