If you are an individual thinking or have recently started a farming operation there are resources through USDA that may help you. Here in the Cadillac area are two agencies that can assist you. The Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), both of which are located on 7192 East 34 Road in Cadillac.

 

Beginning/veterans farmers who would like to address resources concerns

Today, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs offered in the 2018 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill provides beginning farmers, many of whom are veterans, the tools they need to succeed. Preference will be given to eligible Veteran Farmers or Ranchers and beginning farmers applying for several types of conservation financial assistance to improve his farming operation.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits. These include improved water/air quality, conserved surface/ground water, reduced soil erosion, sedimentation, and improved/created wildlife habitat.

Through this program, Wexford County residents have implemented a range of conservation practices on the local landscape. NRCS assists farmers with the design and installation of adequate manure and agrichemical storage. This helps to protect the county’s valuable surface and groundwater resources. NRCS can also help plan crop rotations, that incorporate practices like cover crops and reduced tillage, to promote healthy soils that will continue to be productive into the future. Wildlife enthusiasts can benefit from habitat restoration practices like prescribed burning, tree/shrub plantings, and native grass/wildflower establishment

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance — the higher the performance, the higher the payment.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities. Some of these activities include cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator/beneficial insect habitat — all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques; such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage/planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

The application process for NRCS’s conservation programs is continuous, but funding selections for specific programs are made throughout the year. Eligible veteran landowners must meet the definition of a Beginning Farmer or Rancher: have operated a farm or ranch for no more than 10 consecutive years, and have been discharged from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, its reserve components or the National Guard under conditions other than dishonorable. Veteran farmers or ranchers may also qualify as a Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher by meeting additional criteria.

To learn about EQIP CSP, this initiative, and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit our office in Cadillac at 7192 East 34 Road in Cadillac, call 231-775-7681 ext. 3 or visit our website www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

 

Loan opportunities through USDA Farm Service Agency

By providing access to credit, FSA’s Farm Loan Programs offer opportunities to family-sized farmers and ranchers of the next generation, through FSA’s “Beginning Farmer‘ direct and guaranteed loan programs. Farm Ownership loans can provide access to land and capital. Operating loans can assist beginning farmers in becoming prosperous and competitive. By helping to pay normal operating expenses, open doors to new markets/marketing opportunities and assist with diversifying operations. Through the Microloan programs, beginning farmers and ranchers have an important source of financial assistance during the start-up years.

While FSA is fully committed to all farmers and ranchers, there is a special focus on the credit needs of farmers and ranchers who are in their first 10 years of operation. Each year, FSA targets a portion of its lending by setting aside a portion of all loan funds for financing beginning farmer and rancher operations.

Your local contact is Larry Cleary, Senior Loan Officer at the USDA Service Center, at 7192 E. 34 Road, Cadillac, phone 231-775-7681 ext. 2.

 

Making a farm business plan

An important part of planning your new farming enterprise is the development of a farm business plan. A farm business plan will look at product you will raise/sell, farmland that is needed, and the financial aspects of the operation. There are several websites to help you develop a farm business plan. USDA has a very nice website that can take you through the process. The USDA website is: https://newfarmers.usda.gov/make-farm-business-plan.

As the website says, “Nothing is more critical to a new farm business than a good farm business plan. This is your roadmap to start-up, profitability, and growth, and provides the foundation for your conversation with USDA about how our programs can complement your operation.

“Whether you need a good get-started guide, have a plan that you would like to verify, or have a plan you’re looking to update for your next growth phase, USDA can help connect you to resources to help you in your decisions.

“It is important to know that no single solution fits everyone, and you should research, seek guidance, and make the best decision for your operation according to your own individual priorities.‘

If you would like further assistant, please contact or visit the USDA Service Center located at 7192 East 34 Road in Cadillac or call us at 231-775-7681.

 

Jim Williams is the USDA-Natural Resources District Conservationist serving Wexford and Missaukee Counties. You can reach him by stopping in at the office located at 7192 E. 34 (Boon) Road in Cadillac, by phone at (231) 775-7681 ext. 3, or by email at jim.williams@mi.usda.gov.