Please note that the Grassroots Guide has not yet been updated to reflect changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed and signed into law in December 2018. We are in the process of updating the Guide and expect to publish an updated version in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, please use this guide for basic information about programs and important resources and links for more information, but check with USDA for any relevant program changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. Also, check out our blog series covering highlights from the new farm bill.
Constructing on-farm storage facilities can help farmers succeed financially by giving them greater control over their products and the timing of marketing. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides low-interest loans for farmers to build storage units, upgrade and expand existing storage, or purchase mobile storage facilities. Historically, these loans have primarily benefited grain farmers, but a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill extended the program to fruit and vegetable producers for cold storage. Changes introduced by FSA in recent years now also extend the program to washing and packing sheds and portable storage equipment. This will improve the ability of farmers selling in local and regional food markets to finance the storage and packing sheds they need to keep food fresh and safe prior to marketing. For fruit and vegetable growers, especially small and mid-scale family farmers, packing and storage sheds are critical pieces of their farm operations: this is where fresh produce is washed, sorted, graded, labeled, boxed up, and stored before it heads to market.
Learn More About Farm Storage Facility Loans!
The Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) Program, administered by FSA, provides low-interest loans for producers to build, upgrade, or purchase permanent or portable facilities to store commodities, including fruit and vegetable cold storage, washing, packing, and handling buildings and equipment. Click here to download a program fact sheet.
The following products are currently eligible for farm storage facility loans:
Eligible uses for these types of loans include:
Structures and equipment generally must have an expected useful life of at least 15 years, which includes both new and used equipment. Facilities that are not for the sole use of the borrower(s) are also not eligible.
For fruit and vegetable cold storage facilities, eligible uses include:
Additionally, fruit and vegetable producers may use FSFLs for structures and equipment required to get fruits and vegetables washed, treated and packed or otherwise required to maintain the quality of the crop. Among the items that can be financed are:
Among the eligible cost items are:
The maximum loan amount is $500,000. A cash down payment of 15 percent and a $100 non-refundable application are required. Loan terms are for 7, 10, or 12 years depending on the amount of the loan.
For loans up to $50,000 there is also a microloan option available, which requires less paperwork and fewer eligibility requirements. For these smaller loans, farmers are only required to provide a 5 percent down payment, and are able to self-certify their production history and storage needs, rather than being required to document 3 years of production history. The loan terms for microloans are 3, 5, and 7 years, depending on the amount of the loan.
For both loan types, the interest rate is fixed and set at the rate of interest charged on comparable U.S. Treasury securities, a lower rate than would be available commercially. Loans are repaid in equal amortized installments.
For loans that exceed $100,000, the borrower must provide a first lien on the real estate where the facility is situated, other real estate sufficient to secure the loan, or a letter of credit sufficient to protect the government’s interest. Loans of up to $100,000 may be secured by a promissory note only.
One partial disbursement of up to half the anticipated total cost is available when that portion of the structure has been completed. The final disbursement will be made when the entire structure has been completed and inspected by a USDA representative.
The local FSA county committee must approve all loans.
To be eligible for these loans, the borrower must:
Several other eligibility criteria apply.
Coordination with Other FSA Loan Programs
FSA Direct Operating Loans, including Microloans, can be used in conjunction with FSFLs. FSA state and local offices have been encouraged by USDA headquarters to leverage both programs as well as the knowledge and expertise of farm program and farm loan staff to promote creative solutions to producers’ needs for storage and equipment, including cold storage, packing sheds, and mobile equipment for local and regional food producers. Using both low-interest loan programs in combination may help finance the complete needs of a grower for storage, washing, packing, and transport.
Since the inception of the program in 2000, more than 33,000 loans have been issued for on-farm storage. One of the most recent of those loans made use of the 2014 revisions to the program to benefit fruit and vegetable producers. Lindsay and Ben Shute, owners of Hearty Roots Community Farm in the Hudson Valley of New York State, received a FSFL to finance a cold storage and packing facility for their community supported agriculture (CSA) operation. They received a waiver from FSA from needing to have NAP or crop insurance coverage after demonstrating that such insurance was not meaningful for a CSA. They were also able to use an alternative method to determine their storage facility needs that were more appropriate to a highly diversified operation. Their experience has helped open the door for FSFLs to finance sorting, washing, grading and other critical handling needs of small, diversified specialty crop farms. See more at this USDA blog.
Read more about farm storage facility loans on our blog!
The FSFL program in its current iteration was started administratively in 2000 by FSA. The program has permanent mandatory funding through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and does not require a congressional authorization or an appropriation. The costs of running the loan program are automatically reimbursed to the CCC.
Congress got into the act through the 2008 Farm Bill, which added hay and renewable biomass as well as fruits and vegetables as eligible commodities, added cold storage as eligible facilities, increased the maximum loan term to 12 years, increased the maximum loan about to $500,000, and allowed for partial loan disbursement during construction.
In 2014, FSA took several actions to improve the program, particularly for small and mid-sized farms in the local and regional food space:
The loan level that triggers additional security requirements is now $100,000, up from the previous $50,000 amount.
In 2015, FSA continued to expand the program to also finance on-farm storage for meat, dairy, and eggs. The FSA notice to its field offices also covers flowers, hops, and rye. In 2016, FSA modified the program’s regulations to also cover mobile farm storage equipment and trucks, and to create a streamlined microloan option with a lower down payment and less paperwork required.
Section 1614 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 creates the permanent authorization for the storage facility loan program, to be codified at 7 U.S.C 8789.
Last updated in June 2018.