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The U.S. Agriculture Department plans to expand American farmers’ access to credit through a new microloan program that offers lower interest rates than credit cards and personal loans.

Among other improvements, USDA said it is “adding flexibility to some of the (loan) eligibility requirements and reducing the application requirements.”

USDA farm loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies, or to construct buildings or make farm improvements.

“Over the past three years, we have expanded farm and operating loans to Americans from all backgrounds to help raise a new crop of producers across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As we expand options in agriculture, we’re seeing a new vibrancy across the countryside as younger people — many of whom are now involved in local and regional production — pursue livelihoods in farming, raising food for local consumption.

“By leveraging USDA’s lending programs for beginning farmers and ranchers and smaller producers, we’re helping to rebuild and revitalize our rural communities,” Vilsack said.

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