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What is the Farm Service Agency (FSA)?

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administers many loan, direct payment, and other agricultural assistance programs. People who can benefit from FSA programs include farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers, including those getting started in agriculture. Many programs provide financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in times of distress. FSA began as an agency in 1933 in response to needs during the Great Depression. Over time, the FSA has served many roles, including providing medical care, promoting of cooperatives, and mediation services to help farmers avoid foreclosure. FSA’s programs have changed over time and many are updated with the Farm Bill, which is legislation passed roughly every five years. The information in this MontGuide is current as of April 2022 but will change.

Last Updated: 06/22
by Kate Binzen Fuller, MSU Extension Agricultural Economics Specialist and Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics

How can FSA help me?

The programs and funding that FSA offers have changed over time. Some have requirements surrounding agricultural production history. The local FSA office can help determine eligibility for programs.

CURRENT PROGRAMS INCLUDE:

  • ARC and PLC. Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) are two “safety net” programs designed to help producers of specific crops in times of lower revenues or prices. Participating in these programs requires “base acres,” which are determined by planting history. In Montana, wheat and barley make up the largest shares of base acreage, but 17 other crops are also eligible. To find out if a farm has base acres, contact the local FSA office.
  • Disaster assistance. Several programs pay farmers and ranchers in natural disasters such as flooding, drought, and extreme cold. Producers can determine if they are eligible through FSA’s Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool: https://www.farmers.gov/protection-recovery/disaster-tool

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). In contrast to assistance programs that address the disaster after-effects, producers must sign up for NAP in advance. NAP is similar to crop insurance, but it generally covers types of crops that other forms of crop insurance do not. It can also be used to cover grazing and forage crops. While NAP has service fees and other costs, in many cases, substantial discounts and fee waivers are available for beginning farmers, limited resource producers, veterans, women, and racial and ethnic minorities. Find more information about NAP here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/noninsured-crop-disaster-assistance/index

  • Farm Loans. FSA offers a range of loans for starting, improving, expanding, and transitioning farming and ranching operations. These loans can be used for various purposes, from securing land, purchasing grain bins and other storage, to operating loans that finance agricultural production. Additionally, FSA’s Emergency Loan program can provide financing to help recovery following natural disasters. For direct and guaranteed loans, targeted funds are set aside for historically underserved groups, and specific loans are available for youth agricultural projects and Native American Tribes. Farmers and ranchers can answer a few questions to determine what loan products may be right for them using the Farm Loan Discovery Tool (https://www.farmers.gov/loans/farm-loan-discovery-tool) FSA has loan servicing options for borrowers who cannot make scheduled payments on their loan debt to FSA.
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP pays farmers and ranchers to apply certain conservation practices and remove land from production for between 10 and 15 years. Several different programs cover a variety of land and contracts. Information about CRP, including signup deadlines, can be found here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/

Going to FSA for the first time

FSA farm and tract number(s) are needed to participate in FSA programs. A farm number identifies all land that is part of the operation and shares the same owner and operator. Tract number(s) uniquely identify the separate contiguous pieces of land with common ownership being farmed or ranched.

To get farm and tract numbers:

  • Find the local FSA office. FSA has an office in most rural counties and some urban counties. Producers can find their local office here: http://offices.usda.gov/.
  • Call ahead. An appointment may be needed, and having one will help avoid a wait, even if it isn’t required. The call can also answer questions about what to bring. Not every FSA office offers all services, and a call can provide information on what is available.
  • What to bring: Specific documents other than those listed below may be needed. But in general, be sure to bring:

- Proof of identity: Identification may be required in certain cases. Examples include a driver’s license, Social Security Card, or Tribal ID.

- Land records: Land ownership isn’t required to participate in FSA programs, but if not, proof of leasing will be needed. Land records can include a copy of the recorded deed, rental, or land lease agreement.

- Names, addresses, and tax IDs: Provide the names and addresses of all interest-holders in the operation. These include landowners and business entity members. Tax ID numbers must also be provided for all interest- holders that will earn a share of payments.

- Corporation, estate, or trust documents. Documents showing the operation’s legal and/or tax structure may be needed.


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