Funding Conservation Projects with California FarmLink’s Bridge Loans

This guest blog was written by California FarmLink’s Ali Robinson. California FarmLink is a member of the CalCAN coalition. Their mission is to link independent farmers and ranchers with the land and financing they need for a sustainable future. Find more information and overall background on their lending here.

As the season switched gears into peak production, there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for all the work that has to be done for this season’s harvest, nor enough hours in the day for planning for next year. As forward-looking decisions are made, one of the most pressing is “What are my priorities? What do I invest in for my operation?” Conservation practice decisions have a tendency to fall lower on the triage list, though for some farmers, they not only stay on the radar, but make it through that ‘priority filter’ to materialize as part of an operational plan.

Agricultural conservation practices are important for protecting natural resources, and can benefit farmers in a variety of ways including: increased profits through optimization of expenses or increased productivity, protection of productive soils and lands from erosion, providing a marketing opportunity for farmers selling directly to consumers interested in environmental sustainability, and appealing to landowners interested in protecting their assets (the land).

At California FarmLink, we often hear from farmers who have trouble setting aside the funds required for upfront expenses related to conservation, even in cases where reimbursement or cost-share grants can be awarded, such as NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Additionally, we hear from farmers that in cases where they have approached a lender for financing the upfront expenses, they have been turned away because they don’t have financial models required for a loan application.

California FarmLink works closely with the farmers, as well as the USDA Farm Service Agency and several state and regional agencies. As a farmer approaches us to apply for a loan, we can quickly identify a need to develop project descriptions and financial models outlining the project. In these cases, we can “pause” the application process, while in-house staff provide technical assistance and business development for loan applicants. Once a farmer has worked with our staff to develop the information, FarmLink can re-activate the loan application and fund conservation practices at a low interest rate and with personalized repayment terms.

If you are a farmer or rancher in California, believe you meet California FarmLink’s loan eligibility requirements, have been awarded a conservation cost-share contract and you are interested in financing, contact California FarmLink at loans@cafarmlink.org today to discuss the possibility of a conservation loan.

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