USDA Tool Launch Helps Farmers Navigate Loan Application Process | national news
ATHENS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new online tool to help farmers and ranchers better navigate the agricultural loan application process. This uniform application process will help ensure that all agricultural loan applicants receive equal support and have a consistent customer experience with the USDA Agricultural Services Agency, regardless of their personal circumstances.
“The USDA recognizes that more needs to be done to ensure all customers have equal access to our programs and services,” said Arthur Tripp, FSA Georgia executive director. “The Loan Assistance Tool is another example of USDA taking responsibility and updating our existing systems, processes, and policies to make them fair for all customers. The tool will help loan applicants ready to better understand the application process and gather the necessary documents before the process even begins.
The USDA experiences a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, particularly among underserved clients, in part due to a difficult and time-consuming paper application process. The Loan Assistance Tool is available 24/7 and provides clients with an online step-by-step guide that complements the assistance they receive when working in person with a USDA employee. , providing documents that can help an applicant prepare their loan application in a single tool.
Farmers can access the Loan Assistance Tool by visiting farmers.gov/farm-loan-assistance-tool and clicking the “Get Started” button. From there, they can follow the prompts to complete the eligibility self-assessment and begin the farm loan journey. The tool is designed to work on any modern browser like Chrome, Edge, Firefox or Safari browser, and is fully functional on mobile devices. This does not work in Internet Explorer.
The Loan Assistance Tool is the first of many improvements to the agricultural loan process that will be available to USDA customers on farmers.gov in the future. Other enhancements and tools slated to launch in 2023 include:
♦ A streamlined and simplified direct loan application, reduced from 29 pages to 13 pages;
♦ An interactive online direct loan application that provides clients with an electronic and paperless signature option, as well as the ability to attach supporting documents such as tax returns;
♦ A direct online loan repayment feature that relieves borrowers of the need to call, mail or visit a local service center to pay a loan installment.
The USDA provides access to credit to approximately 115,000 producers who cannot obtain sufficient commercial credit through direct and guaranteed agricultural loans. With funds and direction provided by Congress in Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act, the USDA is taking steps to provide immediate relief to eligible distressed borrowers whose operations are at financial risk while working to bring transformational changes to lending so that borrowers have the flexibility and opportunity to deal with the inherent risks and unpredictability associated with agricultural operations.