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Program Description

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers farm operating loans, both direct and guaranteed, to family farmers and ranchers. These loans can help those who are temporarily unable to get private, commercial credit on their own at reasonable rates and terms.

Operating Loans may be used to:

  • Buy items like livestock and feed, farm equipment, fuel, farm chemicals, and insurance.
  • Pay family living expenses and other operating costs.
  • Make minor improvements or repairs to buildings and fencing.
  • Refinance certain farm-related debt, except real estate.

FSA also offers Microloans. These are direct operating loans with a shortened application process and reduced paperwork. These loans meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional, and niche-type operations. Visit the Microloans Program page for more details.

The maximum loan amount for a Direct Operating Loan is $300,000. The maximum for a Microloan is $50,000. No down payment is required; other terms and conditions apply. Visit the Farm Operating Loans page for more details.

Under an FSA guaranteed loan, you apply to an agricultural lender. The lender makes and services the loan, and FSA guarantees it against loss up to a maximum of 95 percent. The FSA guarantee permits lenders to offer credit to farmers who don’t meet the normal criteria; certain terms and conditions apply. Visit the Guaranteed Farm Loans page for more details.

The maximum loan amount for a Guaranteed Operating Loan is $1,399,000.

FSA’s mission is not just to provide credit—it’s to provide supervised credit. This means FSA works with you to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement in your farming operation. You can learn better business and financial planning that may help guide you toward success.

The goal of FSA’s farm loan programs is to help you get to commercial credit in the future. Once you, as a farmer, are able to get credit from a commercial lender on your own, the agency’s mission is complete.

General Program Requirements

To qualify, you must meet all loan requirements, including those below; other terms and conditions apply:

  • Be a family farmer.
  • Have a satisfactory credit history.
  • For direct loans only, show sufficient farm management experience through education, training, or at least one year of farm experience (managing or operating) within the last five years.
  • Be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or legal resident alien. This includes Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and certain former Pacific Trust Territories.
  • Be unable to get credit elsewhere at reasonable rates and terms to meet actual needs.
  • Be able to take on legal loan obligations.
  • Have no overdue federal debt and have caused no FSA loss through debt forgiveness (certain exceptions apply), and
  • Be the operator of the family farm after loan closing.

Visit the Farm Loan Programs page to learn more about the different FSA loan programs or you may also contact FSA directly.

Application Process

To apply for a Direct Farm Operating Loan, you must complete form FSA-2001, Request for Direct Loan Assistance (PDF, 586 KB). Submit this form and all required documentation to your local USDA Service Center or FSA County Office.

Please read the How to Complete an FSA Loan Application (PDF, 164 KB) fact sheet to learn more about the process.

To apply for a guaranteed loan, talk with your lender. They will make the arrangements.

Last Updated: 07/25/2018