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How to use FSA direct farm ownership loans for construction

• May 5, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Direct Farm Ownership loans are a resource to help farmers become owner-operators of family farms, improve and expand current operations, increase agricultural productivity, and assist with land tenure to save farmland for future generations. Depending on the applicant’s needs, there are three types of Direct Farm Ownership Loans: regular, down payment and joint financing. FSA also offers a Direct Farm Ownership Microloan option for smaller financial needs up to $50,000.

Amongst other purposes, Direct Farm Ownership Loans can be used to construct, purchase or improve farm dwellings, service buildings or other facilities and improvements essential to an operation.

To do this, applicants must provide FSA with an estimate of the total cost of all planned development that completely describe the work, prior to loan approval and must show proof of sufficient funds to pay for the total cost of all planned development at or before loan closing. In some instances, applicants may be asked to provide certified plans, specifications or contract documents. The applicant cannot incur any debts for materials or labor or make any expenditures for development purposes prior to loan closing with the expectation of being reimbursed from FSA funds. Construction and development work may be performed either by the contract method or the borrower method.

Under the contract method, construction and development contractors perform work according to a written contract with the applicant or borrower. An applicant for a direct loan to finance a construction project must obtain a surety bond that guarantees both payment and performance in the amount of the construction contract from a construction contractor. A surety bond is required when a contract exceeds $100,000, an authorized agency official determines that a surety bond appears advisable to protect the borrower against default of the contractor or a contract provides for partial payments in excess of the amount of 60 percent of the value of the work in place.

Under the borrower method, the applicant or borrower will perform the construction and development work. The borrower method may only be used when the authorized agency official determines, based on information from the applicant, that the applicant possesses or arranges to obtain the necessary skill and managerial ability to complete the work satisfactorily and that such work will not interfere with the applicant’s farming operation or work schedule. For more eligibility requirements and information about FSA loan programs, contact your county FSA office.

In other news...

Maintaining good credit history: Farm Service Agency (FSA) Farm Loan programs require that applicants have a satisfactory credit history. A credit report is requested for all FSA direct farm loan applicants. These reports are reviewed to verify outstanding debts, if bills are paid timely and to determine the impact on cash flow. Information found on a customer’s credit report is strictly confidential and is used only as an aid in conducting FSA business. Our farm loan staff will discuss options with you if you have an unfavorable credit report and will provide a copy of your report.

If you dispute the accuracy of the information on the credit report, it is up to you to contact the issuing credit report company to resolve any errors or inaccuracies.

There are multiple ways to remedy an unfavorable credit score. Make sure to pay bills on time. Setting up automatic payments or automated reminders can be an effective way to remember payment due dates. Pay down existing debt, Keep your credit card balances low, avoid suddenly opening or closing existing credit accounts. FSA’s farm loan staff will guide you through the process, which may require you to reapply for a loan after improving or correcting your credit report.

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