New microloan program aims to help agriculture businesses
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new program is looking to help small or new agricultural producers with microloans that can tide them over as they start or grow their business.
“Our board has heard from ag producers and ag lenders that there was a gap for people who don’t qualify for traditional loans,” said Michele Meyer, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance. “They need a small amount of money with flexible terms.”
The Ag Alliance recently received their first $10,000 donation for the CAA Micro Loan Program from an anonymous donor. Applications are being accepted for microloans at an interest rate of 2.5% with a repayment target date of three months to two years.
Fourth-generation Routt County rancher Doug Monger, who sits on the Ag Alliance advisory board, is thrilled with the new program.
“You have a bunch of old farts like myself running ranches … the average age is 58 … and if we want to be able to continue ag operations, we need to start providing opportunities for younger folks,” Monger said.
Monger said a typical applicant could be someone buying their first tractor or a couple sets of heifers or some sheep.
“It’s probably going to be a starter farmer or rancher, maybe someone younger with not a lot of credit history,” Monger said.
To be eligible for the Community Agriculture Alliance’s Micro Loan Program, an applicant must meet the following criteria:
• Ag business or operation with a special interest in food production within Routt County
• 18 or older or have an adult co-signer
• Legal business and products within the U.S.
• Current Community Agriculture Alliance member
• Excludes general operations or land purchase or lease; focus to be on specific needs for existing agricultural businesses
Applications will be accepted annually between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31. Additional application periods may be added as needs/funds available.
Meyer gave a few more examples of ag producers who could use the microloans, like an animal producer who needs a short-term loan to process the meat or someone who needs to buy seeds.
“You need to buy seeds in fall or spring, but you won’t get money until it’s harvested. That can create a financial burden,” Meyer added.
Soroco High School ag teacher Jay Whaley, known for running one of the most successful high school agricultural experience programs in the state of Colorado, said the new microloan program is a great concept.
“That’s exactly the kind of thing that gets these young people involved in agriculture,” Whaley said. “We have over 50 kids in the (school ag) program that could potentially benefit.”
The Community Agriculture Alliance is a nonprofit tasked with preserving the agricultural heritage of the Yampa Valley.
Applications for the CAA Micro Loan Program can be found at communityagalliance.org. Click on programs or call 970-879-4370 for more information.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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