Cultivating big dreams on small scale

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

by J. Calvin Parrish

Throughout my tenure as state executive director for the Virginia Farm Service Agency, I have met several small and beginning farmers interested in making a living in production agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture understands the needs of these small, beginning and specialty crop producers. Through the FSA Farm Loan Programs division, USDA has responded to those needs by developing a microloan program that will provide up to $35,000 to help producers with operating expenses during start-up years. Likewise, it will assist small, established producers who find themselves in extenuating financial circumstances.

Microloans are like other operating loans. They can be used to purchase livestock, equipment, feed, seed, fertilizer and related supplies.

And here’s a real benefit when compared to those credit cards and personal loans; the current interest rate for a microloan is 1.125 percent.

Agriculture can provide new jobs that will build our economy and ensure a safe and affordable food supply at home and abroad. To grow American agriculture, it is imperative that we use solutions like the microloan to provide access to credit to those just starting out or those producing on a smaller scale.

Microloans are unlike traditional FSA loans. Applying is an easier and more flexible process. The application form is eight pages; the requirements are simpler and far more convenient.

FSA will consider an applicant’s small business experience, experience with a self-guided apprenticeship and specialized education to meet the prerequisite.

J. CALVIN PARRISH is state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and can be reached at 804-287-1501.