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Spelling out the A, B, Cs of Accessing Business Credit

America’s farmers and ranchers are a diverse bunch. They span the gamut – from farm families in operation for many generations to new and beginning farmers just getting their agricultural businesses started; from farmers raising commodities for export to farmers engaging in robust domestic and regional markets; from farmers managing big operations to smaller farmers tilling a few acres and everything in between.

No matter the size, type or history of their operation, there is one thing all farmers and ranchers agree on—accessing appropriate capital can be one of the biggest challenges to building a successful farm enterprise. And often, it’s important to start with the basics.

I recently hosted a Google+ hangout to connect producers with lending options that make sense for them and their operation. I brought in USDA’s Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson to discuss the specifics of what a lender is looking for when you walk in the door. We were also joined by Megan Kinsey a produce farmer in Washington State, Shirley Malek, a cheesemaker from New Hampshire and Matt and Jolene Nierling, dairy farmers from Iowa.  These three farmers described their real life experiences in accessing capital for their farm operations and offered sound advice for others getting started.

Megan worked with the Farm Service Agency to purchase land. Shirley took classes hosted by her local Cooperative Extension Service Office and learned more about the resources USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services had to offer. Matt and Jolene worked with private lenders to finance their operation.  In each case, they followed their passion to develop a sound business plan and worked with lenders to find the products that worked for them and their farm.

While each story was different, the advice was the same.  Visit a USDA office and learn what they have to offer, including loan products, classes and other resources. Develop a relationship with a lender and listen to their expertise.  Build a business plan with a realistic and achievable goal. Mind your credit score and keep it strong.  And most importantly, love what you do.

For any farm business looking to access capital, starting with the basics will help spell success.

Continue the conversation using #NewFarmers and stay tuned for more information about upcoming Google+ Hangouts.

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