August 27, 2015
For most farmers, on-farm storage is essential to keeping food fresh and safe prior to marketing. Whether a grain bin, cold storage for fruits and vegetables, refrigerated milk tank, or meat cooler, all farmers need a temperature-stable environment to safely store products they grow or raise on their farm. Depending on the size, on-farm storage facilities can be costly to build and install, and not always financially feasible for small and beginning farmers. The good news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently expanded eligibility for very low interest farm loans to farmers to help defray the costs of needed on-farm storage.
Just weeks after expanding financing options for produce growers, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) last week expanded the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program yet again, to provide affordable financing to farmers to build or upgrade storage for meat, dairy, and eggs. The FSA notice to its field offices also covers flowers, hops, and rye.
NSAC commends FSA for this expansion of the program to cover the needs of additional farmers, especially those serving local and regional markets with high quality meat, eggs, and dairy products. Grain storage is important, but it’s promising that USDA is reaching out to serve other needs and a more diverse range of farm businesses.
The Farm Storage Facility Loan program was expanded to serve produce farmers and finance cold storage facilities for the first time in the 2008 Farm Bill. Changes introduced by FSA in 2014 extended the program to also finance many aspects of fruit and vegetable packing sheds.
The new announcement makes the following commodities eligible for facility loans: unprocessed meat and poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, floriculture (flowers), hops, rye, and aquaculture. Most grains and oilseeds have been eligible for the FSFL program since the program’s beginning, and pulse crops, peanuts, hay, biomass, and honey were added later.
This USDA loan program provides financing for farmers to build or upgrade on-farm cold storage, packing, washing, and handling facilities, including:
The new expansion will allow FSA to serve a more complete range of farming operations in building and improving short-term on-farm storage capacity. Costs and equipment that are not currently covered under the FSFL program may be eligible for financing through other FSA farm loan programs including Direct Operating and Microloans.
These needed changes will help farmers of all kinds keep food safe, facilitate new markets, and better serve the expanding customer base for healthy, local and regional food.
Getting the word out about this new financing opportunity to farmers across the country will be essential to ensure program dollars are flowing to farmers who may not be familiar with this loan program. NSAC will be working with our farmer-based member organizations across the country to conduct outreach on the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program.
To read more about the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program, check out NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs or download this FSFL fact sheet that can be used at upcoming farmer conferences.