Looking for lending assistance for your agricultural operation? The following, from both federal and state programs, will provide a good entry point for land, machinery, and refinancing purposes.
The PA Department of Agriculture manages several Reimbursement Grant programs. These are typically available for only short periods of time, often for very specific activities and are designated as reimbursement grants. That is, the farmer/producer/applicant is required to pay the upfront costs associated with the grant's guidelines first and, upon completion of the grant's requirements, is then reimbursed by the commonwealth for appropriate costs incurred.
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) / Good Handling Practices (GHP) Cost Share Program
This program provides direct financial support through cost sharing of applicable certification fees to producers and processors who successfully complete a USDA GAP or GHP audit. Any business or individual located in Pennsylvania that successfully completes one initial USDA (GAP) or (GHP) audit is eligible to apply. The cost share program is designed to help defray some of the costs related to a successful audit.
2021 GAP/GHP Cost Share Letter (PDF)
2021 GAP/GHP Cost Share Application (WORD)
GAP/GHP Audit Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
For more information about the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program or the Good Agricultural Practices Cost Share Program, contact Michele Brookins at 717-787-5319 or RA-AgBusiness@pa.gov.
Organic Certification Cost Share Program
The Farm Service Agency (FSA), on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), announced on August 10, 2020, changes to the availability of funding and payment calculation for certified organic operations under the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP).
For fiscal year (FY) 2020 through 2023, FSA revised the reimbursement amount to 50 percent of the certified organic operation's eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $500 per scope. This change is due to the limited amount of funding available and will allow a larger number of certified organic operations to receive assistance. If additional funding is authorized at a later time, FSA may provide additional assistance to certified operations that have applied for OCCSP, not to exceed 75 percent of their eligible costs, up to $750 per scope.
Information about the 2021 OCCSP program will be posted when available.
For questions, contact Michele Brookins, PA Department of Agriculture, at 717-787-5319 or RA-AgBusiness@pa.gov, or by fax at 717-787-5643.
Federal Programs (USDA Farm Service Agency)
Farm Storage Facility Loan Program
The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFL) provides low-interest financing so producers can build or upgrade facilities to store commodities. Eligible commodities include grains, oilseeds, peanuts, pulse crops, hay, honey, renewable biomass commodities, fruits and vegetables, floriculture, hops, maple sap, milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, eggs, meat/poultry (unprocessed), rye and aquaculture.
Eligible facility types include grain bins, hay barns, bulk tanks, and facilities for cold storage. Drying and handling and storage equipment is also eligible, including storage and handling trucks. Eligible facilities and equipment may be new or used, permanently affixed or portable.
Find the requirements at SBA 504 Loan.
Small Business Administration 504
The CDC/504 loan program, part of the federal Small Business Administration, is a long-term financing tool for economic development within a community. The 504 Program provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings. A Certified Development Company is a nonprofit corporation set up to contribute to the economic development of its community. CDCs work with the SBA and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses.
USDA Farm Service Agency Direct Loans
Direct farm loans are made by the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) with government funds. The FSA services these loans and provides their direct loan customers with supervision and credit counseling, so they have a better chance for success. Farm ownership, operating, emergency and youth loans are the main types of loans available under the direct program. Direct loan funds are also set aside each year for loans to minority applicants and beginning farmers.
Beginning Farmer/Rancher Down Payment Program
America's next generation of farmers and ranchers are supported through FSA's "Beginning Farmer" direct and guaranteed loan programs. Farm Ownership loans can provide access to land and capital. Operating loans can assist beginning farmers in become prosperous and competitive by helping to pay normal operating or family living expenses; open doors to new markets and marketing opportunities; assist with diversifying operations; and so much more. Through the Microloan programs, beginning farmers and ranchers have an important source of financial assistance during the start-up years. While FSA is fully committed to all farmers and ranchers, there is a special focus on the credit needs of farmers and ranchers who are in their first 10 years of operation. Each year, FSA targets a portion of its lending by setting aside a portion of all loan funds for financing beginning farmer and rancher operations. With the single exception of the Direct Farm Ownership Down Payment Loan, the Beginning Farmer classification is not related to a type of loan program; it references a specific, targeted funding source.
The focus of Microloans is on the financing needs of small, beginning farmer, niche and non-traditional farm operations, such as truck farms, farms participating in direct marketing and sales such as farmers' markets, CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), restaurants and grocery stores, or those using hydroponic, aquaponic, organic and vertical growing methods.
For an application, contact your local FSA office.
State Programs (Managed by PDA & various partners within the commonwealth)
Next Generation Farmer Loan Program (NGFLP)
The Next Generation Farmer Loan Program encourages lenders to finance beginning farmers, which allows the lender to offer a lower interest rate than it usually would offer.
In essence the NGFLP provides an effective means for federal-state-industry partnerships to provide next generation producers a more affordable way to purchase land and other capital- intensive assets, to begin their agricultural enterprise. This collaborative Program is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. For more information, please read the Next Generation Farmer Loan Program Guidelines (PDF).
Eligible Applicants - Beginning Farmers:
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- No prior ownership interest in substantial amount of land exceeding 30% of median farm size in county where land is located
- Resident of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA)
The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority provides low-interest loans and lines of credit for eligible agri-businesses that commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs and for the development of value-added production facilities. Loan applications are packaged and underwritten by a network of certified economic development organizations (CEDOs) that partner with PIDA to administer the program.
Specialty Crops Grant Program
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) is among several grant programs provided through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA/AMS). The purpose of the SCBGP is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, which are defined as "fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture)." The grants are awarded and administered at the state level, with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture coordinating the program on behalf of the commonwealth. Awards are provided on a yearly basis based upon funding provided by USDA/AMS.
Eligible applicants include state and/or local organizations, producer associations, academia, community based organizations, and other specialty crops stakeholders. SCBGP grant funds will be awarded for projects of up to two years in duration. Examples of projects aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops include, but are not limited to: Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; participation of industry representatives at meetings of international standard setting bodies in which the U.S. government participates; improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chains in developing "Good Agricultural Practices," "Good Handling Practices," "Good Manufacturing Practices," and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors; investing in specialty crop research, including organic research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control; and sustainability.
SCBGP funds are awarded for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and benefit the specialty crop industry as a whole. Grant funds will not be awarded for projects that directly benefit a particular commercial product or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual. Projects must enhance specialty crop industry competitiveness.
For more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, contact Morgan Sheffield at 717-787-3568 or e-mail RA-AGPASCBG@pa.gov.