The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency recently announced farmers can now finance the purchase of mobile storage containers as part of changes to the Farm Storage Facility Loan program.
The changes were announced in late April by FSA administer Val Dolcini and agricultural marketing service administrator Elanor Starmer discussed the changes during a roundtable discussion in Columbus, Ohio.
In a statement, Dolcini noted that consumers are increasingly demanding locally grown food, which in turn helps communities establish closer ties with the farmers providing the food.
“Portable handling and storage equipment is vital to helping farmers get their products to market more quickly and better maintain product quality, bringing them greater returns,” said Dolcini. “That’s why we’ve added this type of equipment as a new category for our Farm Storage Facility Loan program.”
Currently, the Farm Storage Facility Loan program offers low interest financing options to help food producers build or upgrade facilities. However, these structures tend to be larger and it’s not uncommon for commercial farmers to take advantage of the loan program. Smaller and independent farmers may then face difficulties because they needed the storage space, but maybe not the resources to take out a loan.
With the changes, smaller farmers can now afford to take out loans in order to obtain portable storage units.
New Microloan Option
As part of the changes, the USDA is introducing loans with a microloan option that comes with smaller down payments. With these options, new, small and mid-sized producers will have an easier time growing their farming operations and potentially expanding if the conditions are suitable enough to do so.
This new microloan option offers farmers the ability to qualify for a smaller down payment of 5 percent and doesn’t require farmers to provide any prior production history. But the total of the loan can’t exceed $50,000, according to the USDA.
The department anticipates the microloan will be of particular benefit to small ranchers, farmers and producers who who lack access to large, commercial storage.
Additionally, changes were also made to add different options which a Farm Storage Facility Loan can cover. The USDA stated commodities eligible for storage needs now include corn, fruits, vegetables, rice, wheat, rye, and barley, among many others.
“Growing high-value crops for local and regional markets is a common entry point for new farmers,” Starmer said in a statement.
The USDA stated these changes are a continuation of policies and efforts that have been ongoing since 2009 in an effort to help further the development of local food sources. The market for local and regional food is currently estimated to be around $12 billion as of 2014.
Growing Demand of Local Food
Based on current trends, it is no surprise why the USDA is placing an emphasis on local food producers and helping them fulfill their storage needs.
“Local food sales are expected to increase to a market value of $20 billion in 2019.”
According to statistics from the USDA, local food sales are expected to increase to a market value of $20 billion in 2019. Recognizing this trend, over $1 billion has been invested in regional farming operations. Some of that money has gone toward infrastructure and training farmers.
Why Storage Is Needed
If predictions from the USDA hold true, farmers will need to meet the growing demand from buyers. In turn, they will need more equipment and materials to ensure farming operations are not thrown off track.
Farms will therefore benefit from using mobile storage containers to store valuable equipment on their farms. With help from the USDA, farmers will have an easier time obtaining these units.