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Central Kentucky Ag Credit's Program for young, Beginning, and Small Farmers

It is surely no secret that getting started in the business of farming and agriculture can be difficult.

Many obstacles stand in the way of those who have a love for agriculture and want to make it their occupation. It is a highly competitive industry that is driven by technological advancements. All of these advancements are great for production, but only drive down profit margins. For individuals and entities looking to enter the field of agriculture, this presents a huge challenge. Central Kentucky Ag Credit realizes these challenges, but also realizes the need for young and beginning farmers to enter our field. After all, the future of our business and our industry depends on new people being able to successfully get started. As the average age of farmers continues to rise, Ag Credit feels that we must do our part to help the cause by helping the next generation of farmers get their start.

For many years our Association has prided itself on taking proper risks, with the use of available financial tools, to help young and beginning farmers get started. For the last 30 years, our Association has used FSA (Farm Service Agency) Loan Guarantees designed to reduce risk to lenders, while offering more lenient loan terms to customers. These terms are designed for new and expanding operations to provide them the capital and purchasing power needed to be successful. Over the last 10 years, the Association has also partnered with KAFC (Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation) to offer lower interest rates and more flexible terms to young and beginning customers. We recognize that upstart farming operations often don’t have the excess capital and assets required for taking on a new business venture. With the use of these two particular programs, Ag Credit has a great foundation for meeting the needs of our young, beginning and small (YBS) farmers in central Kentucky.

It wasn’t until our Association formed a Young Farmer Advisory Council in 2013 that we realized the need to take our YBS program to another level. We knew that we needed to formalize the program, but the council helped us to realize that there was even more that we needed to offer in order to fully meet the needs of those entering the agricultural industry. Through the council we first gave our program a name, AgStart. The name is fitting because it describes exactly what we are trying to achieve, which is helping those who are trying to successfully get started in farming. On top of that, the counsel made us aware that educating those just entering the field was equally as important as providing their financing needs.

With the idea of education in mind, we started a framework for the program. The framework consists of a fourpronged approach to meeting the needs of YBS customers, with financial services only being one part of it. Those services are certainly vital to the success of the program, and are largely comprised of our use of FSA Guarantees and KAFC Loan Participations. These tools allow us to provide a broad range of services tailored to the unique needs of YBS farmers in our territory. The other three components of AgStart focus on education, which includes educational opportunities, mentors and a resource base. For those looking to get acquainted with the business aspects of farming, we offer an eLearning course called AgBiz Basics. This program will inform participants of basic record keeping, farm financial management and lender analysis of farming operations. The AgStart program also offers a resource base that includes customer testimonials and advice, upcoming educational events and commodity updates. The last piece of the AgStart puzzle involves mentoring. The Young Farmer Council expressed a need for mentors to help them as they grew into more experienced producers. Our loan officers at Ag Credit have both farming and financial experience. They are willing to serve in the role of mentor to YBS farmers, as well as help hook them up with other experienced farmers in their area who are willing to serve in a mentor role.

To learn more about the AgStart program you can click on the AgStart link on our Association’s internet home page at www.agcreditonline.com. There you will be able to determine if you are eligible to participate in the program, apply for entry into the AgBiz Basics curriculum, check out our resource base, as well as become familiar with the program in general. Through the work of our Young Farmer Advisory Council we will continue strive to improve the AgStart program, searching for new and innovative ways to meet the particular needs of young and beginning farmers in central Kentucky. Remember, if you visit one our seven branch offices, be sure to ask about AgStart!

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