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USDA offers loans to farmers who grow for locals

With interest in locally grown food soaring, the federal government said Tuesday it has created a small loan program to help community farmers who might not be able to borrow money from banks. Call it seed money.
By ADRIAN SAINZ Published: January 16, 2013

“It's about making sure that we have diversity within agriculture, that we have a good blend of large production facilities, medium-sized operations and smaller operations,” Vilsack said. “It will help bolster the local and regional food system movement that is taking place.”

The loans could help urban farmers who grow fruits and vegetables — or raise chickens for eggs or bees for honey — on lots as small as one-eighth of an acre, said Chad Hellwinckel, a research assistant professor at the Agricultural Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The interest rate for the loan program changes monthly and is now 1.25 percent, the USDA said. Loans do not have to be repaid for seven years.

Associated Press