Tout Microloans as a Critical Factor
BROOKLYN, NY, Dec. 20, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini and New York State Executive Director, James Barber, traveled to Brooklyn Monday to tour urban agriculture operations that were funded by USDA microloans. As more urban farms start in New York City, consumers can find a wider variety of fresh, locally grown vegetables, year round.
“The USDA microloan has expanded funding and opportunities for beginning, niche and small farmers to start or expand their agriculture operations,” said Dolcini. “As urban agriculture continues to grow, FSA loan programs have evolved to keep up with the needs of these unique, creative and trend-setting urban farmers.”
Nine urban entrepreneurs worked with Square Roots and USDA to start their urban farming operation. Square Roots is an organization that promotes urban farming and coaches people with a passion for local food to grow and sell produce locally while building a sustainable business. The urban entrepreneurs each used the USDA microloan program to secure a low interest loan to lease a vertical farm from Square Roots and pay for operating expenses such as seed, water and electricity costs. Vertical farms are repurposed shipping containers tailored for hydroponically growing vegetables and include a water system, heating and cooling units and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) designed to mirror sunlight. Each vertical farm is capable of producing the equivalent of what is grown on two acres of farmland.
Square Roots aims to connect local consumers to the urban farmers who grow a variety of greens and herbs that will be sold at local farmers markets and to local restaurants. The producers expect to harvest their first crop this month.
USDA microloans are low interest loans developed to better serve the unique financial needs of new, niche and small to mid-sized family farm operations. Microloans offer more flexible access to credit and serve as an attractive loan alternative for smaller farming operations, like specialty crop producers. Borrowers can use the microloan for operating expenses or to purchase, expand or improve a farm. The maximum loan amount is $50,000.
USDA works to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. Since 2009, USDA has provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,700 biobased products through USDA’s BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.
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