USDA announces $150 mil. Conservation Loan program to assist with installation costs
By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, Sept. 2 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched the new Conservation Loan (CL) program Thursday to provide farm owners and farm-related business operators access to credit to implement conservation techniques that will conserve natural resources. Initially, USDA has $75 million available for CL direct loans and another $75 million for guaranteed loans.
“This will give farmers who want to implement conservation measures on their lands a chance to do so by providing assistance with their up-front costs,” Vilsack said. “In return, these producers will help to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and promote sustainable and organic agricultural practices.”
CL funds can be used to implement conservation practices approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) such as the installation of conservation structures, establishment of forest cover, installation of water conservation measures, establishment or improvement of permanent pastures, implementation of manure management, and the adaptation of other emerging or existing conservation practices, techniques or technologies.
Direct CLs can be obtained through local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices with loan limits up to $300,000. Guaranteed CLs up to $1,112,000 are available from lenders working with FSA.
The CL program announced Thursday implements the following provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill which authorizes “such funds as are necessary” to operate the program through fiscal year 2112:
“CONSERVATION LOAN AND LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM”
‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary may make or guarantee qualified conservation loans to eligible borrowers under this section.
‘‘(b) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
‘‘(1) QUALIFIED CONSERVATION LOAN.—The term ‘qualified conservation loan’ means a loan, the proceeds of which are used to cover the costs to the borrower of carrying out a qualified conservation project.
‘‘(2) QUALIFIED CONSERVATION PROJECT.—The term ‘qualified conservation project’ means conservation measures that address provisions of a conservation plan of the eligible borrower.
‘‘(3) CONSERVATION PLAN.—The term ‘conservation plan’ means a plan, approved by the Secretary, that, for a farming or ranching operation, identifies the conservation activities that will be addressed with loan funds provided under this section, including—
‘‘(A) the installation of conservation structures to address soil, water, and related resources;
‘‘(B) the establishment of forest cover for sustained yield timber management, erosion control, or shelter belt purposes;
‘‘(C) the installation of water conservation measures;
‘‘(D) the installation of waste management systems;
‘‘(E) the establishment or improvement of permanent pasture;
‘‘(F) compliance with section 1212 of the Food Security Act of 1985; and
‘‘(G) other purposes consistent with the plan, including the adoption of any other emerging or existing conservation practices, techniques, or technologies approved by the Secretary.
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary may make or guarantee loans to farmers or ranchers in the United States, farm cooperatives, private domestic corporations, partnerships, joint operations, trusts, or limited liability companies that are controlled by farmers or ranchers and engaged primarily and directly in agricultural production in the United States.
‘‘(2) REQUIREMENTS.—To be eligible for a loan under this section, applicants shall meet the requirements in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 302(a).
‘‘(d) PRIORITY.—In making or guaranteeing loans under this section, the Secretary shall give priority to—
‘‘(1) qualified beginning farmers or ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers;
‘‘(2) owners or tenants who use the loans to convert to sustainable or organic agricultural production systems; and
‘‘(3) producers who use the loans to build conservation structures or establish conservation practices to comply with section 1212 of the Food Security Act of 1985.
‘‘(e) LIMITATIONS APPLICABLE TO LOAN GUARANTEES.—The portion of a loan that the Secretary may guarantee under this section shall be 75 percent of the principal amount of the loan.
‘‘(f) ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS.—The Secretary shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that loans made or guaranteed under this section are distributed across diverse geographic regions.
‘‘(g) CREDIT ELIGIBILITY.—The provisions of paragraphs (1) and (3) of section 333 shall not apply to loans made or guaranteed under this section.
‘‘(h) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—For each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012, there are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary such funds as are necessary to carry out this section.’’
For more information on the Conservation Loan program, contact a local FSA office or visit the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov.
For more information about this announcement please see the notice which will appear in the September 3 edition of the Federal Register: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/federalNotices?area=home&subject=lare&topic=frd-ii
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