May 22, 2024

Don’t put cart before horse: Follow procedures to receive FSLP low-interest financing

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Farm Service Agency director reminds those who want to utilize the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program that approval for enrollment must be granted before any construction begins.

“If you want to participate in the Farm Storage Facility Program, my recommendation is to call or email the county office now and start the process and ask them about it. We’re going to have to make an environmental site assessment, the farm loan people are going to have to make sure you qualify, and then the county committee is going to have to sign off on it,” said William Graff, state FSA executive director.

“There are a number of steps we have to do to get to there. You just can’t walk in today and sign up for the farm storage facility program and get it approved tomorrow. It doesn’t happen that way.”

Graff has seen cases where construction was already underway before the enrollment process was complete and those individuals were therefore denied a loan.

“It bothers me when a farmer comes in and says they’d like to sign up for this program, but they have the concrete poured and started construction. I’m like, well, we can’t loan you any money, maybe on the next one,” Graff noted.

“We’re the federal government, so we have to do an environmental assessment. This is a national program, there are national rules and we have to follow national rules.”

Program Details

The FSFL program provides low-interest financing so producers can build or upgrade facilities to store commodities.

Eligible commodities include grains, oilseeds, peanuts, pulse crops, hay, honey, renewable biomass commodities, fruits and vegetables, floriculture, hops, maple sap, milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, eggs, meat/poultry (unprocessed), rye and aquaculture. Eligible facility types include grain bins, hay barns, bulk tanks and facilities for cold storage.

Drying and handling and storage equipment also is eligible, including storage and handling trucks. Eligible facilities and equipment may be new or used, permanently affixed or portable.

Since its inception in May 2000, more than 33,000 loans have been issued for on-farm storage, increasing storage capacity by 900 million bushels.

Loan terms vary from three to 12 years. The maximum loan amount for storage facilities is $500,000. The maximum loan amount for storage and handling trucks is $100,000.

In 2016, FSA introduced a new loan category, the microloan, for loans with an aggregate balance up to $50,000. Microloans offer a 5% down payment requirement, compared to a 15% down payment for a regular FSFL, and waive the regular three-year production history requirement.

The interest rates for the FSFL program currently range from 0.125% for a three-year loan up to 0.75% for 12-year loans.

“It’s a great program. In a lot of cases it frees up farmers’ capital to be used for other things and they can access this real low interest money and help themselves out. We can even make a loan on a truck and a trailer. Anything used in the grain handling/grain movement we can finance,” Graff said.