USDA’s Farm Service Agency has rolled out a new direct loan application that will require less than half the paperwork.

The new application will drop from the original 29 pages to 13. Producers will also be able to submit the form electronically once it officially becomes available at the beginning of March.

“We’re consistently looking for ways to make the application process easier to navigate, so more producers are able to complete it,” FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said. “Our new direct loan application is a critical step forward in our efforts to improve customer service and build equity into not just our programs but also our services.”

Billy Hackett, a policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, welcomed the news. Hackett argued many FSA borrowers “do not have the time or resources to comb through elaborate forms and piece together minute records.”

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FSA said about 26,000 producers submit a direct loan application every year, “but there is a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, due in part to a challenging and lengthy paper-based application process.” USDA says other simplifications to the farm loan process can be expected in 2023, including an interactive online application and an online direct loan repayment feature.

USDA also plans to reach out to producers soon to detail “the circumstances under which additional payments will be made to distressed borrowers.” In October, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $1.3 billion strategy of earlier intervention for producers who might be falling behind on loan repayment.

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