The USDA is creating a loan assistance tool to improve equity and customer service

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The US Department of Agriculture has launched a new online tool to help farmers and ranchers better navigate the farm loan application process. This unified application process will help ensure that all farm loan applicants receive the same level of support and have a consistent client experience with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), regardless of their individual circumstances.

The USDA experiences a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, particularly among underserved clients, due in part to a difficult and lengthy paper-based application process. Available 24/7, the Loan Assistance Tool provides customers with an online step-by-step guide that complements the support they receive from working personally with a USDA staff member and provides materials that a Applicants can help to prepare their loan application in one tool.

Farmers can access the Loan Assistance Tool by visiting farmers.gov/farm-loan-assistance-tool and clicking the Get Started button. From here, they can follow the instructions to complete the eligibility self-assessment and begin the farm loan journey. The tool is designed to run on any modern browser like Chrome, Edge, Firefox or the Safari browser and is fully functional on mobile devices. It doesn’t work in Internet Explorer.

The Loan Assistance tool is the first of several farm loan process improvements that will be available to USDA customers on farmers.gov in the future. Other improvements and tools expected to roll out in 2023 include:

  • A streamlined and simplified direct loan application, reduced from 29 pages to 13 pages.
  • An interactive online direct loan application that offers customers a paperless and e-signature option, as well as the ability to attach supporting documents such as tax returns.
  • An online direct repayment feature that frees borrowers from having to call, email, or visit a local service center to pay a loan installment.

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The USDA provides access to credit for approximately 115,000 growers who cannot obtain adequate commercial credit through direct and guaranteed agricultural credit. With the tools and direction provided by Congress in Section 22006 of the Anti-Inflation Act, the USDA is taking action to provide prompt assistance to qualifying distressed borrowers whose operations are at financial risk, while also working to make transformative changes in loan administration so that Borrowers are given the flexibility and opportunity needed to address the inherent risks and unpredictability associated with farm operations.

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