JEFFERSON CITY — A new bill would open up access to small business loans for livestock farmers across the state.
SB 868 would change the definition of a small farmer so more operations can access low-interest loans under the Family Farms Act.
The bill was introduced Monday to the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee by its sponsor, Justin Brown, R-Rolla.
Under current law, a farmer is 'small' if they pull in less than $250,000 in gross sales per year. SB 868 would increase that cap to $500,000.
Brown said that even if a farmer takes in $500,000 in gross sales, "the margins on that, it can be a negative, especially right now in this agricultural climate."
Most farms in Missouri are struggling to make ends meet. More than half reported a net loss in 2017, according to the latest data from the Department of Agriculture. Brown's constituents are hurting even worse: 65% of the roughly 3,070 farms tracked by the USDA in the 16th District reported a net loss.
Over 350 farmers currently participate in the loan program, according to testimony from Brown, but it is unclear how many more farmers would benefit from the change. Emily LeRoy, the legislative liaison from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, testified that the department can't tell how many more operations would be eligible using their existing data. In an interview after the hearing, Brown said he expects the number of participants in the program to roughly double.
Loans made under the Family Farm Act target purchases of five different types of livestock: pigs, goats, sheep and dairy and beef cows. Loaners cannot charge interest for the first year and receive a tax credit in lieu of the interest they would have collected.