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Starting a Farm

In 1992, Congress established real estate loan assistance targeted at beginning farmers and ranchers. (7 U.S.C. 1922) Since that time, many programs have been established to further increase the amount of funding and land available to new farmers and ranchers. The 2014 Farm Bill created and enhanced several USDA farm programs aimed at beginning farmers.

In recent years, just over 20 percent of family farms have been classified as beginning farms. A common challenge facing beginning farmers and ranchers is finding available land and securing financing to lease or buy the property. Financing programs exist for farmers to access funds both from public and commercial credit sources. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes direct and guaranteed farm loans.

Farm Service Agency programs include:

Adapted from Beginning Farmers and Ranchers at a Glance, Economic Brief No. EB-22, January 2013.

A beginning farmer is defined as a farmer or rancher who has not operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years. This 10-year requirement applies to all operators, defined as members of an entity who will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

Adapted from Beginning & Disadvantaged Farmers.


U.S. Government Publishing Office. Federal Digital System.


Internal Revenue Service.


U.S. Government Publishing Office. Federal Digital System.


Agricultural Law Information Partnership

Vermont Law School. Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.
National Agricultural Law Center.


Center for Agriculture and Food Systems. Vermont Law School.


USDA. Economic Research Service.


Center for Farm Financial Management. University of Minnesota. USDA.
USDA. NAL. Rural Information Center.


USDA. NAL. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center.



Iowa State University. Extension and Outreach.


ATTRA. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.


Internal Revenue Service.


New England Small Farm Institute.


Tufts University. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.