Farm families across the country accessed nearly $6 billion in new credit, either directly or guaranteed through commercial lenders in 2017. According to the US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, it was another near-record year for its farm loan programs.

In 2017,  the FSA  assisted more than 120,000 family farmers with loans totaling just over $25 billion.

The FSA streamlines the application process  to provide a variety of loan assistance, including direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans, operating loans direct microloans up to $50,000.

New farmers without a lot of capital or land to put up for collateral can find their path to much-needed funds blocked. Providing loans to small, beginning and underserved farmers is the basis of the agency's mission.

"We provide opportunities to farmers to obtain commercial credit, to help them get started, gain access to land and grow their operations," Dr. Robert Johansson, acting deputy for Farm Production and Conservation at the USDA, said in a press release.

More than 25,000 direct and guaranteed FSA loans went to beginning or underserved farmers and ranchers.

The agency specializes in loans to first-time farmers. According to the FSA, 4,900 beginning farmers received direct farm ownership loans from the agency to make their first land purchase. Nearly 1,000 veterans and 400 women received first-time loans as well.

"Family farmers across America also come to us for credit when they face challenges to stay in business," Johansson said. "We’re proud to support rural prosperity by providing credit to those who need it most."

In addition to providing easier access to loans, the FSA publishes booklets specially designed to help potential borrowers know their options and provide technical assistance and guidance throughout the process and life of the loan.

To contact the writer email sedger@dodgeglobe.com