VSU agribusiness program offers Virginia farmers cost-saving alternative for FSA loan qualification

VSU becomes first HBCU licensed to teach USDA/FSA Agribusiness Production and Financial Management Program

Ettrick, Va. – Until last year, Virginia farmers applying for a USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan were required to take an on-line Agribusiness Production and Financial Management Program offered by private companies for $300-$600. The program offers valuable financial management and crop production skills aimed at boosting farm profitability and income, but many farmers find it costly and inconvenient to take online.

Three years ago, representatives from FSA and Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program, a Virginia Cooperative Extension program, met to discuss a better way to assist Virginia farmers in meeting the mandatory FSA financial and production management borrower training requirements. Both organizations agreed that the current process could use improving.

“Many farmers don’t like the idea of taking online courses, let alone in the evening after putting in a day in the field,” said Mike Wooden, assistant director, VSU Small Farm Outreach Program. “It was hard for them to wrap their minds around balance sheets, cash flow and marketing principles after putting in a full day’s work.”

As a result of that meeting, Virginia State University (VSU) applied to FSA to be a licensed program vendor, or teacher. The University met the criteria and was approved two years ago to administer the course, making it the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to be certified in teaching the FSA’s Agribusiness Production and Financial Management Program. In addition, VSU applied for and received from the FSA a three-year grant in the amount of $250,000 to administer the program, which is designed especially for limited resource farmers.

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