The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today entered into an agreement with the Republic of Marshall Islands to extend the popular USDA microloan program to farmers and ranchers of this island nation.
“Access to low-interest microloans will offer producers of Majuro new opportunities to grow their businesses to meet their family’s financial needs, increase local food self-sufficiency and support the expansion of the local economy,” said USDA Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Diane Ley.
The microloan program was established last year by the USDA Farm Service Agency to provide beginning, small, or traditionally underserved family farming operations with access to up to $50,000 in loans using a simplified application process, with up to seven years to repay. The loans are designed to bolster the progress of producers in their initial operational years by providing early financial resources to increase equity and assist with graduating to commercial credit and expanding operations. Microloans can be used for initial start-up expenses; annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities and land rents; marketing and distribution expenses; or purchase of livestock and equipment.
An important component of today’s agreement is partnerships with local businesses and organizations that will serve as a direct link between Marshallese farmers and the USDA Farm Service Agency. Partners include the U.S. Small Business Development Center, a non-profit organization that will guide producers in the loan application process. Other partners include the College of the Marshall Islands, which will provide training and educational workshops to producers, and the Marshall Islands Ministry of Resources and Development, which will coordinate the partners and offer technical support to Majuro producers.
The initiative meets the objectives defined in the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to increase access to federal programs that improve health, and environmental quality, and access to fresh produce, meats and agricultural production practices.
A former Trust Territory of the Pacific, the Republic of Marshall Islands became an independent nation in the 1980s, with the United States government providing certain federal programs under the treaty terms of the Compact of Free Association, as amended. In 2007, Farm Service Agency updated its regulatory definition of “United States” to include the Republic of Marshall Islands and other former Trust Territories of the Pacific.
Since 2010, USDA has made a record amount of farm loans — more than 165,000 loans totaling nearly $23 billion. More than 50 percent of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers. In addition, USDA has increased its lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2010. For more information on USDA microloans, contactwww.fsa.usda.gov/microloans. To learn more about how USDA is helping beginning farmers, visit www.usda.gov/newfarmer.
These programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.