The Kansas Farm Service Agency is reaching out to women and minority farmers in the state in an effort to get more of them involved in its farm programs.  "We're in the business of helping our farmers and ranchers-all of them," said Adrian J. Polansky, state executive director of USDA's Farm Service Agency in Kansas.

"Our programs are generally well known throughout the ag community," he said.  "We do not have to promote their availability to the producers who have traditionally used them. But there may be producers, especially among women, minority, beginning, and limited resource farmers, who still are not aware of our programs and the benefits that may be available to them.  We want to reach those producers and tell them the Farm Service Agency is here for them too."

Polansky said that while Farm Service Agency programs remain available to all producers, "We want to increase participation by traditionally underrepresented groups.  We want to see more women and minorities take advantage of these programs."

Polansky summarized FSA's major programs and stressed that they are open to all qualified producers.

Farm Loans. FSA offers direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan programs to farmers who are temporarily unable to obtain private, commercial credit and who meet other regulatory criteria.  Each year a portion of the funding FSA receives for loan programs is specifically targeted for socially disadvantaged persons and beginning farmers.  "In Fiscal Year 2010, Kansas obligated $2,152,970 for a total of 75 loans to qualified farmers under the Socially Disadvantaged Persons Loan Program.  We also obligated $20,952,114 for a total of 286 loans to qualified farmers under the Beginning Farmer Program," Polansky said.

For farm loan purposes, FSA defines a socially disadvantaged person as one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of the group without regard to their individual qualities.  For purposes of this program, these groups are women, African Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, and Asians and Pacific Islanders.   For farm loan purposes, FSA defines a beginning farmer as a person who:
*       has operated a farm for not more than 10 years
*       will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm
*       agrees to participate in a loan assessment, borrower training and financial management program  sponsored by FSA
*       does not own a farm in excess of 30 percent of the county's median size.
*       participated in a farm for at least 3 years (for direct farm ownership loans).

To qualify for an FSA loan, applicants must be U.S. citizens or resident aliens, have a satisfactory history of meeting credit obligations, a set amount of experience operating or managing a farm, and be unable to obtain credit elsewhere at reasonable rates and terms.

Youth Loans.  Loans up to $5,000 are available to rural youths to establish and operate income-producing projects of modest size in connection with their participation in 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and similar organizations.  Eligible youth must be U.S. citizens between 10 and 20 years old, live in a town of less than 50,000 people and be unable to obtain a loan from other sources.  Loan proceeds may be used to buy livestock, equipment, and supplies; buy, rent, or repair needed tools and equipment; and pay operating expenses for running the project.  In Fiscal Year 2010, Kansas obligated $258,225 for a total of 85 youth loans.

Disaster Assistance. The Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) helps farmers who grow crops that are not eligible for regular crop insurance to recover from natural disasters.  "NAP provides farmers growing eligible crops with protection that is comparable to the catastrophic risk protection plan provided by crop insurance," Polansky said. NAP crops have application closing deadlines.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 authorized the Supplemental Disaster Assistance Programs including Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE), Livestock Forage Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm Raised Fish (ELAP), and Tree Assistance Program (TAP).  SURE signup for 2009 losses ends July 29, 2011.  To be eligible for the supplemental disaster programs, producers must obtain crop insurance on insurable crops and NAP coverage on non-insurable crops.

Emergency Loans. FSA provides emergency loans to help cover production and physical losses in counties declared disaster areas by the president, or designated as such by the secretary of agriculture or the FSA administrator.  Emergency loans are also available in counties that are contiguous to a declared area. The interest rate is 3.75 percent.

Emergency Conservation Program. Emergency cost-share funding is available in some circumstances for farmers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.  The natural disaster must have created new conservation problems that, if not treated, would impair or endanger the land.  It must also have affected the productive capacity of the land and represent unusual damage that is not likely to recur frequently in the same area.  Finally, it must be so costly that federal assistance is required to return the land to productive agriculture use

Conservation Programs. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) protects the nation's most fragile farmland by encouraging farmers to stop growing crops on highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land.  Owners receive an annual rental payment in exchange for planting a protective cover of grass or trees on the land. Under the continuous sign up provisions, producers can enroll eligible land at any time.

The Transition Incentive Program (TIP) transitions expiring CRP land from a retired or retiring owner or operator to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher to return land to production for sustainable grazing or crop production.  TIP provides annual rental payments for up to two additional years after the date of the expiration of the CRP contract, provided the transition is not to a family member.  Enrollment in TIP may begin one year before the expiration date of a CRP contract.

Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program (DCP) and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE).  June 1, 2011 is the final date to sign up for the 2011 DCP and ACRE.  Direct payments are available for wheat, corn, barley, oats, grain sorghum, upland cotton, soybeans, and oilseeds.  Counter-cyclical payments will be issued if the effective price for a crop year is less than the target price. The optional ACRE program provides a safety net based on state revenue losses and acts in place of the price-based safety net of counter-cyclical payments under DCP.

Marketing Assistance Loans. This commodity loan program is for barley, corn, honey, grain sorghum, lentils, wool and mohair, oats, oilseeds (including soybeans), peanuts, wheat, and upland cotton.  "This program provides short-term loans that allow producers to borrow the value of their crops and use the crops as collateral," Polansky said.  In lieu of a commodity loan, producers may request loan deficiency payments when the Posted County Price is below the County Loan Rate for a specific commodity.

Farm Storage Facility Loans.  Loans are available to build or upgrade farm storage and handling facilities for grain, silage, hay, biomass, and cold storage for fruits and vegetables.  Loans amounts up to $500,000 have a maximum loan term of seven, ten or twelve years.  Interest rate depends on month of application approval.

Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements for a given program before FSA can extend program benefits.  For more information on these programs and other programs available through FSA, contact the Farm Service Agency at the county USDA Service Center, or on the Internet at www.fsa.usda.gov/ks.

If you believe that USDA improperly denied farm loan benefits to you for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000 because you are female or Hispanic you may be eligible to apply for compensation.  To register to receive a claims package call 1.888.508.4429 or on-line at www.farmerclaims.gov. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and provider.