Two of the biggest challenges facing new farmers and ranchers are access to land and capital. Capital needs range from buying the farm itself to buying important pieces of equipment or just establishing credit. USDA has tools that you can use when taking these first key steps.
To apply for USDA assistance, or to get more information, please visit a local USDA service center. Remember, some service centers do not offer all services. If you have any questions, please contact the service center before making the trip.
Often called the "lender of first opportunity," the Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes and guarantees loans (PDF, 3.5MB) to farmers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial lenders. You can use FSA loan funds to pay normal operating or family living expenses, purchase and develop farmland, and buy livestock and equipment.
Some loan programs provide targeted assistance for new farmers and ranchers, including:
Farm Service Agency Microloans
Microloans are direct farm operating loans with a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and beginning operations.
Down Payment Program
FSA's Down Payment Program can assist beginning farmers in purchasing a farm (PDF, 253KB).
FSA offers youth loans to individuals to establish and operate income-producing projects of modest size in connection with their participation in 4-H clubs, FFA, and similar organizations. A Youth loan is available to young persons between the ages 10 and 20 years.
When Eric Johnson finished high school, he didn't see cows in his future. "I wanted a new adventure and I wanted to try something different after being on the farm my whole life," said Eric. "I tried carpentry and later worked at a nursery as a landscaper laying paver patios and building rock walls." Landscaping didn't employ year-round so he began work at a large dairy. This is also how he met his wife Alison. "I enjoyed my work on the dairy farm and that's when I realized I missed working on the farm where I grew up," said Eric. Several years later, his dad, Harold, needed a new herd manager and offered Eric the job. He jumped at the chance.
Family adversity brought Sam Pesina back home to his family's Fresno County, Calif., farm. But it was the love of farming that kept him. When my dad got bone marrow cancer, there was never any question that I would return home, said Pesina. My dad wouldn't have trusted anyone else [to run the farm]. So he packed his bags, glanced back at the 12 years he spent in Hawaii working in finance and starting his own mortgage brokerage company, and headed back to Orange Cove to care for his father and the farm he grew up on.