Six Questions and Answers: Krystal Sellers, Farm Services Agency
Krystal Sellers, FSA, Indiana County, PA
724-463-8547, ex 3329
Tell us about your role at FSA. I’m a senior farm loan officer. I’m boots on the ground, marketing in the local office talking to farmers, gathering applications, working them up, approving up to a lending limit, servicing the loans on an annual basis, checking that our collateral is there, going over last year and next year, doing a balance sheet, modifying the loan if needed. We collect on the loan if anything has gone south and we’ve emptied our bag of tricks trying to assists. We have a great support team that helps us at the state level and here in the local office, but the loan officers service the loan from start to finish. You get to know your loan officer and we get to know you. We’re a supervised loan model so we get out to see the farm every year and sit down for a year-end analysis with our borrowers.
Do you have any association with the military, or did you serve? I come from a military family and am very familiar with the lifestyle. My uncle served 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. He was a Gunnery Sergeant and served in Desert Storm. He even named his business Devil Dog Excavating. I had other family serve but I never had the chance to meet them.
We’ve heard that a visit to FSA should be the first stop for a Veteran interested in getting into farming. What will he or she learn? It depends on what kind of property you’re looking at. If you’re not sure it’s farmable, you may check with NRCS first. But if you’re seeking financing, come here first. We’re a one-stop-shop to send you where you need to go throughout USDA. We’ll help you assess your options and help you find the right resource as we’re familiar with all the services. You have to have an NRCS Conservation Plan to get a loan w/ us and NRCS will come out to your farm.
Could you please explain the concept of FSA being the ‘lender of last resort?’ (Krystal laughs.) That was our old coin—we’ve tried to say that we’re the lender of first opportunity in the last few years. In the 10 years I’ve been with FSA I’ve never had to ask people to bring in denial letters. If you bring in an application and you look like you’d be a good candidate for commercial credit we may ask you to apply for that and then bring in your denial. The old idea has never gone away, but we’re not in competition with ag lenders—we’re lending up to 90% guaranteed. If there’s a total loss and the farm is liquidated, the bank would only get the 10%. If someone can get a loan from a local lender, we ask that they do if they can handle the rates and payments. We look at everything.
Are you currently working with those who have served in your work in Westmoreland and
Indiana? I have quite a few that are veterans in my portfolio. They do check off if they’re Veteran on the application, so when Congress gives us our funding, if we’re running out of money, a Veteran will get credit first.
What else would you like Veterans, Guard, or Reserve members to know about FSA? First-- yes, the process and paperwork can be overwhelming--we’re not tree friendly—but we’re here to help. The loan officers can’t make a plan for you but we can most certainly look at your farm plan and offer our expertise before you apply. Just give us a call for help with your application—especially if you’re going for a loan above $50K and/or going with an LLC, as the government needs a lot of information from the members of a partnership, including spouses. Be patient as it’s a rigorous process, but you’re getting longer terms and lower rates.
And last, our microloan program is great because you don’t have to have the 1-year-of-the-last-3 farm experience for credit of $50K or less. So if you’re renting some property to start something small and work into a larger piece of land it may be a good fit. You can run a couple head of livestock, or bees, or start a small garden to see if you like it, and get some years of experience and then qualify for larger loans.