Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has named nine Sun Belt representatives to a new USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. She also announced a new pilot program to help beginning farmers and ranchers purchase land.

The advisory committee advises the secretary of agriculture on ways to encourage federal and state beginning farmers' programs to provide joint financing to qualified farmers and ranchers and look for methods to help create new farming or ranching opportunities.

The Sun Belt members of the 20-member panel include: Henry English of Pine Bluff, Ark.; Valerie Diller of Texline, Texas; Omar Garza of Santa Elena, Texas; Juan Guzman of Miami, Fla.; J. Latrice Hill-Moore of Jackson, Miss.; Trenton McKnight of Throckmorton, Texas; Ray Mobley of Tallahassee, Fla.; Linda Prentiss of Springville, Calif.; and Kenneth Stokes of Stephenville, Texas.

The farmer and rancher pilot loan program, called the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Land Contract Guarantee Pilot Program, guarantees sellers that if a USDA-approved buyer misses payments, USDA will make them.

The pilot program, created by the 2002 farm bill, will be tested in Indiana, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa during fiscal years 2003-2007. Every year, up to five land contracts in each of the six pilot states may be guaranteed.

The pilot program provides the seller of the land a 10-year “prompt payment” guarantee of the sale to the beginning farmer or rancher (buyer).

The defaulted amount then becomes a federal debt for which the buyer is liable. If the debt is not restructured into a repayment plan or otherwise satisfied, FSA will use other means to collect the debt from the buyer. The guarantee is limited to the total monetary amount of two installments. The guarantee will also cover the amount of two years' worth of unpaid taxes and insurance.

Following are some of the eligibility requirements prospective buyers must meet:

  • Be a beginning farmer or rancher and the owner of a family farm after the contract is completed.
  • Have participated in the business operations of a farm or ranch for at least three years.
  • Have an acceptable credit history demonstrated by satisfactory debt repayment.
  • Be unable to obtain sufficient credit elsewhere without a guarantee to finance actual needs at reasonable rates and terms.