How to Buy Land as a Beginning Farmer

Pepo Peschiera

Jan 28, 2022

One of the main challenges growing farmers face is securing farmland. 

An easy and capital efficient way to start is by renting land. Renting allows farmers to build a land base and cash flows to ensure they can make payments for the equipment. However, it doesn’t allow you to build equity and value over time.

Equipment is depreciable and loses value every year, and rents can increase or be terminated, making renting a potential riskier proposition over the long term.

Buying land can be a better alternative, but it is very capital intensive. It can take multiple years to save up just for the down payment and land markets can be very competitive.

There are some compelling existing and new financial tools to help farmers purchase land that can be useful in the right situation. 

In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of FSA loans (Beginning Farmer and Direct Loans), Seller Financing, Commercial Loans (including FSA Guaranteed Loans), and Farmland Capital, a new offering from FBN®

FSA beginning farmer loans

FSA Beginning Farmer Loans are a great way for eligible farmers to get started. They can cover up to 95% of the land purchase. However, they have some limitations: 

  • FSA will finance 45% up to a maximum loan amount of $300,150. The balance of the debt may be financed by a commercial lender, private lender, or the seller.

  • The current land owned by the applicant must be less than 30% the size of the average farm in the county (for example: less than 107 acres in Cedar County, IA). 

  • The farmer must have operated a farm or ranch for between 3 and 10 years.

  • The farmer meets FSA requirements

The interest rates on these loans are very compelling (currently 1.5%) which might make them the right option for those who can qualify.

FSA direct farm ownership joint financing loans

FSA Direct Farm Ownership Joint Financing Loans are likely the next best option for those who qualify. They can cover up to 100% of the farm amount with very compelling interest rates (currently 2.5%). However, they also have some limitations:

  • FSA can lend up to 50% of the cost or value of the property being purchased. A commercial lender or the seller provides the balance of loan funds.

  • Maximum FSA loan amount of $600,000.

  • Another lender would provide the remaining financing.

After farmers max out their FSA loan amount, their next best option is typically Seller Financing or going to a Commercial Lender. 

[Overwhelmed with options or not quite sure where to start? Speak with an FBN advisor directly by calling 866-619-3080 or clicking here to get more information.]

Seller financing

Seller Financing, usually structured as a Contract for Deed, is when a farmer acquires a property with financing provided by the seller of that property, using the property as collateral.

The amount of the property being financed, the term, and the interest rate are agreed upon between the seller and the buyer. Depending on the terms negotiated, seller financing can be an attractive option for many beginning farmers. 

Commercial lenders and banks

Commercial Lenders and banks are another option (like FBN Finance Land Financing). They typically lend up to 65% of the property value and up to 50% of the total assets of the farmer.

To qualify for these loans, the farmer must be able to demonstrate that their farming income will be sufficient to cover all expenses and debt payments, plus a buffer of typically 25%.

For farmers in expansion mode, the main limiting factors are typically being able to cover the down payment (which amounts to 35% or more of the farm value) and being able to generate cash flow to cover the loan payments. 

FSA guaranteed loans

FSA Guaranteed Loans are loans issued by Commercial Lenders (including FBN) that get a guarantee from FSA, allowing them to provide loans to farmers with tighter financial metrics.

They are a good option for farmers who want to buy additional land and are not eligible for a conventional loan.

These FSA Guaranteed Loans have a maximum loan amount of $1,825,000, typically higher interest rates than conventional loans, and an additional upfront cost of about 1.5% for the Guarantee Fee. 

Farmland Capital

A new alternative in the market is FBN’s Farmland Capital. With Farmland Capital farmers can take a loan of up to 65% of bare land value (down payment of 35%) and then cover 49% of that down payment with Farmland Capital.

This means that farmers can buy land with as little as 17.85% down payment. Additionally, farmers do not have to pay any interest on the Farmland Capital investment, providing more flexibility with their cash flows to make the necessary investments in their business and to weather the ups and downs inherent to farming.

Farmland Capital is perhaps comparable to a farmer getting support from or partnering with a relative. These arrangements can vary, but typically both the farmer and the relative participate in the income and the change in value of the farm (up or down).

But let's face it. There are a lot of farmers out there who don’t have a rich relative that wants to purchase land with them. 

With FBN's Farmland Capital, the farmer gets 100% of the income and Farmland Capital gets 0%, giving the farmer more flexibility with cash flows.

Farmland Capital shares in a portion of the appreciation or depreciation of the farm between when the land is bought and when the farmer buys out the contract. The goal of this program is for the farmer to buy out the co-investment at a future date.

The agreement is for up to 10 years and the farmer can buy out the co-investment at any time based on the appraised value of the property. 

FBN's Farmland Capital is structured as an option that participates in the appreciation or depreciation of the farm. The farmer is the owner of the property (Farmland Capital is not on the deed).

The farmer makes all decisions and pays for all operating expenses, including property taxes, mortgage, and insurance. If the farm loses value, Farmland Capital shares in that loss in value.

Farmland Capital is junior to the mortgage loan, so Farmland Capital can lose all its investment before the lender loses anything. In fact, typically the co-investment loses all its value even before the farmer. 

By bringing this new product to market, FBN aims to connect farmers looking to expand their operation with investors interested in having money invested in farmland and the protection farmland assets can give them in the face of volatile investments in other markets. These investors value investing alongside good farmers who are aligned on farm value preservation and have majority direct ownership.

Partnering with Farmland Capital makes buying land less capital intensive, which means farmers can buy more land earlier. The contract is structured so that a farmer can likely buy out the investment within 3-9 years with the equity they have built via:

  • Land appreciation

  • Equity built via land loan payments

  • Savings generated from farm income

Farmland Capital gives growing farmers a path to ownership while maintaining full control of the land and their destiny.

FBN's Farmland Capital is a way to level the playing field in the ever consolidating world of agriculture, allowing farmers to compete with institutional investors and hedge funds for land, keeping US farmland farmer-owned and controlled. 

Scale your operations with FBN's Farmland Capital

Click here or reach an advisor directly by calling 866-619-3080 to learn more about how FBN's Farmland Capital can help grow your operation.


Watch Now: Learn more about Farmland Capital

In the video below, Pepo Peschiera, Managing Director of Equity Investments at FBN, shares additional details about the Farmland Capital program.

Copyright © 2014 - 2022 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions apply. Financing and investments managed by FBN Finance, LLC in connection with its financing partners. All financing and investments are subject to underwriting; not all applicants will be approved.

Pepo Peschiera

Jan 28, 2022

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