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Indiana's Small Farmers Can Benefit from Changes in Federal Loan Program

Ron Nichols/NRCS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is improving farm loans by expanding eligibility and lending limits to more beginning farmers.

Traci Bruckner, senior associate for agriculture and conservation policy at the Center for Rural Affairs, says the changes are part of a successful micro-loan program that has benefited first-time farmers.

"It gives them that ability to get some access to credit, and start to build a history and start to develop their farming business," says Bruckner. "Then they can grow from there. It's really helping give a leg up, so new farmers can get started and then get stronger as they enter into agriculture."

Bruckner says the eligibility and lending changes will help more people who want to get into farming and ranching, as well as those who want to improve their current operations.

According to Bruckner, another important change is the micro-loan program's flexibility, which no longer requires a farmer to show they have filed income taxes for three years to be able to buy land and become eligible for loans. She explains not all new farmers are necessarily new to agriculture.

"We've worked with a lot of beginning farmers that have apprenticed on farms, they've interned on farms or worked for farmers," she says. "So we were asking them in the Farm Bill to loosen up that requirement and let other types of experience count towards that management and financial experience they need, to show they can pay back a farm ownership loan."

Bruckner adds more than half of USDA loans now go to beginning farmers.

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