COVID-19 has caused unprecedented economic repercussions for agricultural producers. Many federal and state programs have been created to help farmers and others in the food and agricultural industry weather the difficult economic situation. But it can be difficult to navigate the programs and understand how to apply for financial assistance.
Extension's Ag Business Management Team created this guide to financial assistance programs for Minnesota farmers caught in the unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you need more information about these programs, call Extension’s Farm Information Line. When you call the Farm Information Line, you'll get reliable, research-based answers from a statewide network of Extension agriculture and natural resources experts.
Farm Information Line
Contact the Farm Information Line for reliable, research-based answers from Extension agriculture and natural resources experts. This is a statewide service backed by a network of local educators, so you'll get information to meet your needs.
Hours: We answer voicemail and email requests Monday through Friday afternoons. Leave a detailed voicemail or email us with your question for a timely response.
After hours and weekends: Leave a detailed voicemail or email with your question and we'll answer you on the next scheduled Farm Information Line working day.
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- What is it: A federal emergency low-interest, need-based loan of up to $2,000,000.
- They are generally approved for smaller loan totals, up to $150,000.
- These loans are not new, but many farmers have not used them before.
- Who can apply: Small businesses, including agricultural enterprises
- Where to apply: Apply through the Small Business Administration.
- You may or may not be approved for a loan.
Read more about How farmers can access federal loan programs.
- What is it: A federal, potentially forgivable low-interest loan. In brief, the loan is for 2.5 times your average monthly payroll cost or equivalent self-employed earnings.
- Who can apply: Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers are eligible for PPP loans if:
- The business has 500 or fewer employees, or
- The business fits within the revenue-based sized standard, which is average annual receipts of $1 million.
- Where to apply: Apply through your local participating bank or lending institution that works with the Small Business Administration.
- Find more information on this program at the Small Business Administration website.
- If a PPP borrower has a loan of $150,000 or below and worked with a lender that opted into SBA’s new portal, then the borrower can apply for forgiveness directly with SBA instead of using their lender’s system. The portal is available here and will open to all qualifying borrowers on August 4, 2021.
The Small Business Administration is not currently accepting applications for PPP, pending further legislation.
Read more about this measure and how it may affect your farm.
- What is it: A federal loan guarantee program to help supplement working capital to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
- Who can apply: Rural based businesses, non-profits, cooperatives, Tribes, and public bodies. Due to the CARES Act, the list of eligible applicants now includes agricultural producers for the first time.
- Where to apply: Apply through your local participating bank or lending institution. The lenders work with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (RD) agency to secure the loan guarantee if the agricultural producer is not eligible for a guarantee through Farm Service Agency (FSA).
- What is it: A Minnesota mini-grant to help purchase equipment to aid in more processing capacity. Examples include:
- refrigeration units,
- materials for the expansion of buildings,
- other equipment used for meat processing (saws or sinks).
- Who can apply: Meat processors in Minnesota who are of good standing with the state.
- Where to apply: Minnesota Department of Agriculture
- This mini-grant requires a 1:1 match.
- The minimum grant approved will be for $1,000 and the maximum will be for $5,000.
Farm Advocates provide one-on-one assistance for Minnesota farmers who face crises caused by either natural disasters or financial problems.
Farm Advocates understand the needs of agricultural families and communities. They are trained and experienced in agricultural lending practices, mediation, lender negotiation, farm programs, crisis counseling, and disaster programs and to assess the need for legal and social services.
The Farm Advocate Program has been supported by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture since 1984. There is no charge or fee for Farm Advocate assistance.
Go to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture site for more information on this service.
- What is it: Financial and technical assistance to livestock producers for animal mortality disposal resulting from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Who can apply: Agricultural producers facing livestock depopulation.
- Where to apply: Your local Natural Resource Conservation Service office.
- You must enroll in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to access the program.
- For more information see the Minnesota Board of Animal Health website factsheet.
- What is it: Temporary partial wage replacement to Minnesota workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Additional benefits are available due to COVID-19.
- Who can apply: Unemployed workers.
- Self-employed people and independent contractors, including farmers, qualify if they have become unemployed.
- Where to apply: Apply through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Unemployment Insurance benefits website.
Farm Bill and USDA
- What is it: A safety net program for farmers to enroll in to help their revenue if prices or yields are less than anticipated.
- For crops:
- ARC-County and ARC-Individual (Agricultural Risk Coverage) is a revenue-based program that looks at a national marketing year price and either county yield or individual yield.
- PLC (Price Loss Coverage) looks at a national marketing year average price in comparison to the set reference price and will pay the difference on a county yield basis.
- Dairy farmers can also enroll in Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) which looks at the difference between national monthly average feed cost and price of milk per hundredweight. Dairy farmers choose different coverage levels between $4.00 and $9.50.
- Who can apply: Farmers who have base acres or a pounds of milk production history.
- Where to apply: Your local USDA Farm Service Agency office.
- Note: While there are not any special sign-up periods related to COVID-19, the Farm Bill is the primary federal safety net for commodity producers.
- Low prices caused by COVID-19 will trigger Farm Bill related payments for many enrolled farmers.
- Crops payments for 2019 will arrive in approximately October 2020.
- See the USDA Farm Bill site for more information.
Coping with rural stress
- The Rural Stress Task Force page has more resources and information on coping with emotional and financial stress.
Farmer Lender Mediation
- Need help with farm debt? Learn how mediation can help.
Ag Business Management blog
Reviewed in 2020