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USDA Expanding Support To Small Farms And Ranches

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding their support to the nation's small and mid-sized farms and ranches, and small producers in Montana are already taking advantage of some of these programs.

The USDA is expanding loans, providing more risk management and food safety tools for smaller scale producers across the country.

The USDA said it plans to spend $15 million more for hoop houses, which provide money-making opportunities by helping expand growing seasons on the farms that use them.

Gallatin Grown Owner Matt Rothschiller has a hoop house to help him grow spinach all year.

"It helps us provide more food to our local community and helps with our cash flow in the winter time when cash flow is obviously pretty small for small scale farmers," said Rothschiller.

Right now, Rothschiller is also in the middle of applying for a microloan, another program the USDA is expanding.

The program allows small and beginning farmers to access up to $35,000 to help unconventional farmers.

Rothschiller said it's perfect for him to get a new tractor and other equipment.

"You get a little better loan rates, you can do this loan with zero down, which is what we needed, so we applied for it," said Rothschiller.

The program started last year and the USDA has issued more than 4900 microloans, totaling more $97 million.

The USDA is also changing the Farm Storage and Facility Loans, allowing fruit and vegetable producers, like Gallatin Grown, to purchase cold storage and other equipment.

And, Rothschiller said he might look into that soon.

"We have a walk in cooler, but we are bursting at the seams and we need a bigger pack room, we need another barn here is what we need," said Rothschiller.

The USDA also said the smaller farms are eligible for a waiver where they would not be required to have crop insurance to receive FSFL loans.

The USDA is also working on developing a whole farm insurance policy to better meet the needs highly-diversified fruit and vegetable producers.

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