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Small Farm Funding Resources

Two baskets of red apples at a Farmers Market. (iStock)
​Rural Information Center (U.S.) Beltsville, MD: USDA, National Agricultural Library, Rural Information Center, [2022] Updated by Vanessa S Gordon, Ph.D. March 2022. Original edition: September 2005 by Patricia La Caille John. Internet -resource:   https://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/small-farm-funding-resources

Contents

Introduction

This guide contains information about issues to consider before starting a farming operation with links to full-text guides on how to start a farm business and develop business and marketing plans. It also contains information about funding programs for beginning and experienced farmers, technical assistance contacts, disaster assistance, and organizations with resources. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources website as well as the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Farm Loan Discovery Tool websites. An Overview of Beginning Farms and Farmers (USDA Economic Research Service, 2019) describes the structural and economic characteristics of beginning farms and illustrates how they differ from more established operations.

The use of trade, firm, or corporation names in this publication (or page) is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture or the Agricultural Research Service of any product or service to the exclusion of others that maybe suitable.  

Developing a Farm Business Plan

1. Agribusiness Planning: Providing Direction for Agricultural Firms. Jeffrey Hyde, Sarah Roch. UA371. University Park: Penn State University Cooperative Extension, 2002. 

2. Business Plan Preparation: Tools for Writing Business Plans. Stephen Lawrence, Frank Moyes. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. 

3. Farm Business Plan Worksheet: Balance Sheet. FSA2037. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, 11-04-10. [PDF 631.59KB]

4. Farm Business Plan Worksheet: Projected/Actual Income and Expense. FSA2038. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, 08-19-14. [PDF 321 KB]

5. Business Guide. Washington, DC: U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Financial and Planning Resources

1. Agricultural Income and Finances. (Publications) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

2. Exploring the Small Farm Dream. Belchertown, MA: New England Small Farm Institute.

3. Family Farming in the United States. James MacDonald. Amber Waves. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, March 4, 2014. 

4. National Farmers Markets Directory Search. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. Updated 2022.

5. Financing Small-Scale and Part-Time Farms. Gregory D. Hanson, Jayson K. Harper, George L. Greaser. University Park: Penn State University Cooperative Extension, 2004. 

6. Small Farm Handbook. 2nd Edition. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. 2011.

7. Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business. Prepared by Lynn F. Kime and Sarah A. Cornelisse, senior extension associates in agricultural economics; and Jayson K. Harper, professor of agricultural economics. This publication was developed by the Small-scale and Part-time Farming Project at Penn State with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Extension Service. Additional financial support for this publication was provided by the Risk Management Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. 2018. Updated 2022.

8. Business Structure for Small Farms: A Quick Guide. Issued by Washington State University Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015. [PDF 1.75 MB]

9. Tools and Resources for New Farmers. Belchertown, MA: Growing New Farmers Consortium.

Contacts for Technical Assistance: Both SBA and USDA provide small business planning technical assistance and USDA also provides technical farming specifics through the extensive network of USDA, Cooperative Extension Service (CES) specialists.

Funding and Program Assistance

State Programs You may want to start your financial assistance search with your state Department of Agriculture to see if your state has a Beginning Farmer Loan Program or other type of grants or loans for farming and ranching.

  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is comprised of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Types of state agricultural finance programs may be identified through your Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs. Check with your state agriculture department for programs, like Aggie Bonds.

Agricultural Lenders Information on Farm Financial Management & Performance can be located on the USDA's Economic Research Service web site.

Farm Banks: The nation's farm banks (defined by the Federal Reserve Board as banks that have above average proportions of farm real estate and production loans in their loan portfolios) offer a variety of loans to small and large farms and agribusiness firms; they also handle many of the loans made under USDAs guaranteed farm loan programs.

  • American Bankers Association: Agriculture Banking. ABA has a "special section dedicated to providing advocacy, information, training, education, and public relations for banks that make and service agricultural loans or provide credit and other financial services to those living and working in rural America for nearly 100 years."

Farm Credit: Farm Credit is a nationwide network of 70 customer-owned financial institutions across all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and provides loans and related financial services to U.S. farmers and ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives and other agribusinesses, rural homebuyers and rural infrastructure providers.​

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

USDA, Farm Service Agency, Farm Programs:

USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service

USDA, Risk Management Agency

USDA, Rural Development

USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Veteran Resources

Agriculture Disaster Assistance

Organizations and Web Sites

USDA, Rural Information Center
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Ave., Room 109
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351
ric@usda.gov