Get a farm loan: Agriculture financing to grow your farm |
farm financing

Get a farm loan: Agriculture financing and beginning farmer loans

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Find loans and government programs just for you.

If you’re in agriculture, you probably thought you’d spend most of your time … well, farming — not trying to find ways to fund your project. For new farmers with no background in finance, it’s important not to let the never-ending list of expenses discourage you.

Let us help you take that first step toward getting your farm off the ground. We go over public and private loan options out there for you, along with financing that can help you find the best way to pay for your farm.

OnDeck Small Business Loans

OnDeck Small Business Loans

Among the largest online business lenders offering term loans and lines of credit at competitive fixed rates.

  • Minimum Amount: $5,000
  • Maximum Amount: 500000
  • Loan Term: 3 to 36 months
  • Simple online application process with fast decisions
  • Dedicated loan specialists and loyalty benefits
  • Must have been in business for at least one year with annual revenue of $100,000+
  • Must have a personal credit score of 500+

    What types of loans are available to farmers?

    A challenge new farmers face is that lenders aren’t crazy about providing large loans to businesses that have a short track record.

    But it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. A few lending options available for those just starting out include:

    • Direct operating loans. New farmers need to buy equipment, livestock, fuel and other items to run a farm. Though small, these loans can help you purchase what you need while building trust with lenders, which could lead to larger real estate loans down the line.
    • Aggie bonds. Beginning farmer loan programs — or aggie bonds — are federal–state public–private partnership programs that encourage lenders to take on new borrowers by offering these lenders tax-free interest. Bonds vary by state and may require you to take business courses — not a bad idea for any business.
    • Young and beginning loans for farmers and ranchers. The Farming Credit Services of America offers loans to help new farmers and ranchers purchase real estate, open a line of credit or find an installment loan.
    • Microloans. Starting a rooftop apiary? A hydroponic vegetable garden behind your restaurant? Microfinancing could be available to help small farmers cover niche expenses.
    • SBA loans. Depending on the type of farm you’re starting, you might be eligible for loan backed by the Small Business Administration, which offers competitive interest rates. Note that the SBA recommends looking at government resources specifically allocated for agriculture before applying.
    • Venture capital and angel investors. Wealthy groups and individuals are willing to give promising businesses money in the hopes of reaping capital gains down the line. If you’re just starting out, consider this option.

    Can I get a loan for my agribusiness?

    Because agribusiness refers to any business that earns most or all of its revenue from agriculture, many of your farm financing options will be available for an agribusiness operation.

    You can finance just about anything you need, from purchasing new breeding stock to buying farm machinery to expanding your farm’s staff. That’s because agribusiness is a huge umbrella term that encompasses every step of agricultural production. Banks, credit unions and other lenders — including the USDA — all offer loans to help with your agribusiness.

    Like any farm or business loan, you’ll need to supply your agribusiness’s financial statements and build a strong application. Target lenders that work specifically in your niche. You should also know exactly what you plan on using your loan for will as this will help you find approval.

    How do I know if I'm a young, beginner or a small farmer?

    Different lenders use these terms to refer to slightly different eligibility, so you’ll want to confirm them with specific lenders.

    However, you’ll find many lenders that agree on these rough definitions:

    • A young farmer is younger than 35 years old.
    • A beginning farmer has less than 10 years of agricultural experience.
    • A small farmer generates less than $250,000 in annual gross sales.

    Government-funded beginner farm finance

    The US Department of Agriculture is one of the first places you a new farmer should turn to for financing. In recent years, the government has increased its funding and other resources specifically for beginner farmers.

    US Department of Agriculture financing options

    • Targeted funding for beginning farmers. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) sets aside a percentage of direct farm ownership and direct farm operating loans for beginners. Which means new farmers won’t compete with big agriculture companies for loans to cover the costs of real estate or operating and maintaining your farm.
    • EZ Guarantee program. Through this program, the FSA acts as a middleman between farmers and USDA-approved lenders. It offers a streamlined application for smaller loans to cover farm operating and ownership costs.
    • Farm ownership or operating microloans. Microlending can cover smaller expenses like fencing or organic certification costs.
    • Farm storage facility loan program. This low-interest financing can help small farmers build or upgrade storage facilities for agricultural products.
    • Land contract guarantees. The FSA sets up land sales between retiring and beginner farmers through rent-to-own contracts. These can benefit new farmers with affordable interest rates and a smaller down payment than you’ll find with conventional real estate loans.

    Farm Service Agency targeted and specialty farm loans

    The FSA is a sector within the US Department of Agriculture that specializes in resources for farmers and ranchers. Here are three targeted financing options they offer:

    • Native American Tribal Loans. Through two FSA programs designed specifically for Native Americans, tribes can purchase property, increase agricultural productivity and preserve farmland within the reservation and even buy farmland with multiple owners.
    • Loans for minorities and women. The FSA targets a percentage of farm loans for minorities and women starting out in farming.
    • Loans for young farmers. Designed to encourage urban youth’s involvement in agriculture, these loans help young farmers fund income-generating projects in connection with an agricultural youth organization.

    Am I eligible for a Farm Service Agency loan?

    If you have a farm business in the US, you can likely apply for a loan with the FSA.

    However, you won’t be able to apply for an FSA loan if:

    • You’re able to get credit elsewhere.
    • You’re not a US citizen.
    • You have controlled substance convictions.
    • You’ve caused the government’s financial loss on previous loans.
    • You’ve received debt forgiveness from the FSA.

    Online business loans you could apply for as a farmer

    Rates last updated July 19th, 2018
    Unfortunately, none of the business loan providers currently offer loans for these criteria.
    Name Product Product Description Min Loan Amount Max. Loan Amount Requirements
    LoanBuilder, A PayPal Service Business Loans
    Customizable loans with no origination fee for business owners in a hurry.
    Annual business revenue of at least $42,000, at least 9 months in business, personal credit score of 550+.
    LendingClub Business Loans
    With loan terms that vary from 1 to 5 years, enjoy fixed monthly payments and no prepayment penalties through this award-winning lender.
    2+ years in business; $50,000+ in yearly sales; No bankruptcies or tax liens; At least 20% ownership of your business; Fair or better personal credit
    OnDeck Small Business Loans
    A leading online business lender offering flexible financing at competitive fixed rates.
    Must have been in business for at least one year with annual revenue of $100K+. Must have a personal credit score of 500+.
    Kabbage Small Business Line of Credit
    A simple, convenient online application could securely get the funds you need to grow your business.
    Must have been in business for at least 1 year. Revenue minimum is $50,000 annually or $4,200 per month over the last 3 months.
    Lending Express Business Loan Marketplace
    At least 3 months in business and $10,000+ in monthly revenue. Your business might also qualify if it's been in business at least 6 months with $3,000+ in monthly revenue.
    National Business Capital Business Loans
    Get a large business loan to cover your financing needs, no matter what the purpose is. Startups welcome with 680+ credit score.
    Your company must have been in business for at least 6 months and have an annual revenue of at least $180,000. Business Loan Marketplace
    Get connected with wide range of loan amounts and multiple loan types from reputable lenders.
    Must have good credit and at least 6 months in business.
    Fora Financial Business Loans
    No minimum credit score requirement and early repayment discounts for qualifying borrowers.
    Business age 6+ months. Monthly revenue $12,000+. No open bankruptcies.
    Excel Capital Management Small Business Loans
    Get personalized financing options that suit your unique business needs in just a few simple steps.
    Varies by loan type
    Varies by loan type
    Your business must operate in the US, be at least 1 year old and have monthly revenue of $15,000+.
    Balboa Capital Small Business Loan
    Short-term business financing with no minimum credit score or physical paperwork required.
    Must make $300,000 in annual revenue and be established for at least one year prior.
    LendingTree Business Loans
    Multiple business financing options in one place including: small business loans, lines of credit, SBA loans, equipment financing and more.
    Varies by lender and type of financing
    Varies by lender and type of financing
    Varies by lender, but you many require good personal credit, a minimum business age and minimum annual revenue.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    How do I compare my loan options?

    Choosing the right type of financing is a first steps to getting funding for your new farming venture. When comparing your options, weigh the importance of these elements against your needs:

    • Loan amount. Think about how much you want to borrow to narrow your options. To avoid falling into debt, borrow only what you need.
    • Loan term. If you want to pay off your loan over a number of years, consider a fixed-term loan. If you think you can pay it back in a few months, short-term options could be an option. And a line of credit might give you a continuous flow of funds.
    • Eligibility. Loans come eligibility criteria that can consider your age, years of farming experience and citizenship among other factors.
    • Interest rate. Interest rates vary depending on how much you want to borrow and how long you need to pay it back. Government and other options aimed at beginning farmers tend to come with lower interest rates.
    • Fees and costs. Application and origination fees can add up when you’re applying for a loan. Also ask about prepayment penalties that could discourage you from paying off your loan ahead of time.
    • Loan type. Government-funded options like FSA and SBA loans could offer advantages over venture capital investments and traditional loans depending on your needs.

    How to compare even more business loan features

    What do I need to apply?

    How much information and documentation you’ll need to submit will differ by lender. For instance, short-term lenders typically require less documentation than paperwork-heavy Small Business Administration loans.

    In general, you’ll need to provide at least:

    • Your personal contact information.
    • Your date of birth and Social Security number.
    • Your personal credit score.
    • Proof of residency.
    • A thorough business plan.
    • Business bank statements for the past three years.
    • A list of your other creditors.

    Your farm financing preparation checklist

    • Educate yourself. Take classes, go to conferences and participate in workshops for beginner farmers. Not only will you know more about how to run your farm, but you’ll also have an easier time getting loans in the future.
    • Diversify. Chances are that you won’t be able to fund your new farm through one source. You’re more likely to succeed if you apply for a few types of loans and grants.
    • Keep an eye on the future. Look out for grants and financing programs you may be eligible for later. Applications require planning and can take a long time to process. Knowing what lies ahead can help you stay on top of your finances.
    • Have a Plan B. Things can go wrong on farms — insects droughts or floods can wipe out yields. You could apply for an emergency loan, but it’s having an emergency fund or crop insurance can help you weather the low points.
    • Avoid applying for loans in the spring. Spring is the busiest time for agriculture lenders.

    How can I finance my farm without taking out a loan?

    You have options beyond borrowing from a lender. A few include:

    • Grants. While your choices aren’t many, you could find a grant through your city, country or region.
    • Private contracts. Some property owners are willing to enter into private contracts with new farmers to sell land and other assets. Building a relationship with farmers interested in passing on their land is one way to gradually gain ownership of a new farm without having to involve banks or the government.
    • Make your farm a CSA. Through community supported agriculture (CSA), consumers pay a set fee at the start of your growing season to receive a specified amount of your harvest throughout a season or year. Fees give you income for the season and help mitigate risks like crop failure.
    • Crowdfunding. Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Barnraiser and GoFundMe are low-risk ways to raise money for a project. Even if you don’t raise as much as you need, you can practice delivering your business pitch and get an idea of who’s interested in your products.

    Four tips for crowdfunding your farm

    1. Plan, plan, plan. Don’t rush into your crowdfunding campaign without a solid business plan that concisely conveys who you are and what you want to do.
    2. Use a site that fits your needs. Kickstarter has a wide audience, but it won’t let you keep any of the money you raise unless you reach your goals. Indiegogo lets you keep everything you raise, but it has a smaller reach.
    3. Offer rewards. Whether a GIF of a rooster crowing for a $5 donation or a year’s subscription to your CSA for $1,000, incentives help draw people in.
    4. Make the first few days successful. The first 48 hours can make or break your campaign. Reaching out to your network for donations in this crucial period can result in a smoother overall campaign.

    Where should I open my farm?

    Here are the top 10 places for farming based on number of farms recorded by the Census Bureau in that state:

      1. Texas. 248,809
      2. Missouri. 99,171
      3. Iowa. 88,637
      4. Oklahoma. 80,245
      5. California. 77,857
    1. Kentucky. 77,087
    2. Ohio. 75,462
    3. Illinois. 75,087
    4. Minnesota. 74,542
    5. Wisconsin. 69,754

    Bottom line

    Running a new farm takes passion, dedication and hard work — not to mention time in finding the right funding to help you support its early days.

    As a farmer who’s just starting out, you have a range of options designed to get you funding. By knowing exactly what you need, you can compare and narrow your choices to one that fits your budget.

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    Anna Serio

    Anna Serio is a staff writer untangling everything you need to know about personal loans, including student, car and business loans. She spent five years living in Beirut, where she was a news editor for The Daily Star and hung out with a lot of cats. She loves to eat, travel and save money.

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