Blog | October 27, 2017

New Guide Helps Farmers Navigate Farm Service Agency Programs

by Joe Schroeder

Our friends at the Community Food Agriculture Coalition of Missoula County have partnered with the National Center for Appropriate Technology to develop a new guide to help diversified farmers to understand key Farm Service Agency programs. We hear from farmers all over the country about access to credit and programs to help them grow, and usually the first conversation we have involves understanding which FSA lending option could work. Simply put, there are no other lending agencies quite like FSA, designed and mandated to support farmers of all types.

Many in the local food world have been slow to think of FSA as relevant and necessary because their programs have traditionally focused primarily on larger and less diversified operations. The culture and design behind small-scale and diversified production is inherently risk-averse while remaining nimble. This allows farmers the creativity they need to quickly change direction when specific markets or crops fail them. For this reason, traditional lenders don’t have much experience evaluating these types of operations, making the assurances of credit, insurance programs, and long term planning harder to capture by the same tools that evaluate international grain prices and analyze production risks of entire regions. Of course we recognize that all farms need financing and that a cash flow sheet is as valuable to a vegetable farmer as it is to a grain farmer, albeit more complicated.

Its important to give credit where its due, which is why we celebrate FSA for listening and responding to the needs of more diversified and smaller scale farmers. This is the best lending agency we have, and it’s accessible to everyone in the country, so let’s not forget to use them. This new guide will help folks get a handle on all the ways they can access help from FSA and those experiences help us understand what works well and doesn’t. So get informed, then dive in and tell us how things go!

View the guide, an infographic, and get a printable tri-fold brochure below. And then head over to our Farmer Resource Guides for information on a variety of topics helpful for farmers just getting started, looking for funding, or looking to try something new on their farm.

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