Proposal Would Expand Ag-Link Program

By
Deanna Pan

Dateline
Updated Mon, Jan 23, 2012 9:47 am

State Republicans say that new legislation would give more Ohio farmers an opportunity to receive reduced-interest loans to offset their operating expenses.

The proposed legislation would expand the Agricultural Linked Deposit program, or Ag-LINK, which offers farm operators an interest-rate reduction on loans and lines of credit through the Ohio treasurer's office.
 
House Bill 415, along with its companion, Senate Bill 281, would increase the amount the state treasury sets aside each year for the program from $125 million to $165 million. It would also increase the amount that can be loaned to an applicant, from $100,000 to $150,000.
 
"Many young farmers particularly, or beginning farmers, find that they have a wealth of knowledge but a lack of capital," said Beth Vanderkooi, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's director of state policy.
 
Bill Bishilany, deputy state treasurer, said interest-rate reductions help farmers invest in supplies, like seeds, feed, fertilizer and fuel, that "are crucial for a successful business."
 
Since its inception in 1985, Ag-LINK has loaned about $2.8 billion to more than 40,000 Ohio farmers. Last year, more than 800 farmers in 67 counties took advantage of the program, according to Bishilany.
 
The bills' sponsors, Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, Rep. Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, and Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, said they hope a bigger investment in Ohio agricultural businesses will create more jobs and boost the economy.
 
"This is about jobs. This is about family farms," Hill said. "This is putting money back into these communities, so smaller family farms can thrive and prosper."
 
The application period for loans opened yesterday. Lending institutions can apply on behalf of prospective borrowers at through March 9.
 
Deanna Pan is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.  
 
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