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Farm Real Estate
Farm Loan Programs
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes direct and guaranteed operating and farm ownership loans to eligible farmers and ranchers. Under its direct operating loan program, USDA also makes loans to rural youth to establish and operate income-producing projects of modest size in connection with their participation in 4-H clubs, FFA, and similar organizations. Guaranteed loans are made through private lenders with a guarantee of up to 95 percent of the loss of principal and interest. Direct and guaranteed operating loans can be used to purchase livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and other material essential to a farm or ranch operation. Direct and guaranteed farm ownership loan funds may be used to purchase land, construct buildings, or make farm improvements. Guaranteed operating and farm ownership loans may also be used to refinance debt. USDA also provides assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers under its Direct Farm Ownership Down Payment Loan Program, and provides retiring farmers the opportunity to transfer their land to future generations of farmers and ranchers. USDA also targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed operating loan and farm ownership loan funds to beginning farmers and ranchers and Socially Disadvantaged Applicants (SDAs). Emergency loans are available to established farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses as a result of a natural disaster or quarantine.



Individuals requesting direct farm ownership assistance must have participated in the business operations of a farm or ranch for at least 3 years, but not necessarily have been the primary operator of the farm or ranch. To qualify for the Direct Farm Ownership Down Payment Loan Program, applicants must be beginning farmers and ranchers, provide a down payment of at least 10 percent of the purchase price, and meet all other direct farm ownership eligibility requirements.
Concerning the loan targeting, beginning farmers and ranchers and SDAs must meet all basic loan program eligibility requirements. Beginning farmers and ranchers must have operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years, and if applying for a farm ownership loan, must not own farm property totaling more than 30 percent of the average farm acreage in the county, and meet all other eligibility requirements. SDAs include women, African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.
To be eligible for emergency loan assistance, the applicant's operation must be located in, or contiguous to, a county that has been declared a disaster area by the President or designated a disaster or quarantine area by the Secretary of Agriculture. The applicant must have suffered a qualifying production or physical loss as the direct result of a natural disaster or quarantine. An applicant must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere and must meet other eligibility criteria. To be eligible for a direct operating youth loan, an applicant must also be between 10 and 20 years old and live in a town of fewer than 10,000 people.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) farm loans have provided thousands of direct and guaranteed loans to farmers and ranchers who need aid with startup costs and other financial or technical assistance to maintain the profitability of their operations. The table below provides a breakdown of loan activity from fiscal year (FY) 2001 through FY 2005:

USDA Farm Service Agency Loan Activity, FY 2001—FY 2005

Fiscal Year

Total Obligations

Number of Loans
















Since FY 1994, FSA has provided more than $7.6 billion in direct and guaranteed loan funds to 87,660 beginning farmers and ranchers. From FY 2001 to FY 2005, FSA has provided more than $1.7 billion in loan funds to 19,996 SDA individuals.


© FVC National Centre 2001-2011