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Beginners helped to buy land


By MATTHEW WEAVER


Capital Press


The USDA Farm Service Agency is offering help to beginning and minority farmers who want to buy farmland.


The Land Contract Guarantee Program is designed to help them obtain land through a sales contract with the owner.


Melissa Cummins, farm loan chief for the agency office in Spokane, said the program was designed as a tool for beginning farmers.


"We have a lot of land that sells on a contract for somebody who can't quite get a commercial bank loan," she said.


The guarantee program gives protection to landowners willing to sell land on a contract to a new or minority farmer, she said.


The national program offers two options, one that guarantees up to three installments on the contract and one that guarantees the unpaid principal of the contract. Guarantees can be used in the purchase of land for up to $500,000.


Cummins is uncertain of the level of interest in the program. A national pilot program did not receive much interest because it offered only the three-payment option, she said.


The agency retooled the program, adding the guarantee on the principal balance of the contract.


"We're certainly going to give it a good push here, hope that people will take a look at this program and see if it will fit their needs," she said.


It was authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill.


For more information, access the agency website at www.fsa.usda.gov or contact local FSA offices.



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