BROOMFIELD, Colo. — The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) has launched the Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program, a new financially inclusive lending program that offers financing to farmers, ranchers, and agriculturally supportive business owners who have the skills, training, and vision to succeed, but simply lack funding. CDA has selected First Southwest Bank, based in Alamosa, as the official lending partner of the Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program.
Funding for the Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program comes from Colorado’s stimulus legislation (SB21-248), which appropriated funding to a revolving loan program to support agricultural production.
“Colorado’s agriculture is broad and diverse, and this program will help more people gain access to financing that will increase the diversity of our food system while continuing to invest in the future of Colorado agriculture,” said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. “Growing and raising food is hard work, and CDA is here to provide the financial and technical support to those who have the training and commitment necessary to succeed. Providing flexible, low interest loans to ag entrepreneurs will help ensure a secure farming and ranching future for Colorado.”
CDA has partnered with First Southwest Bank, a community-based lender with more than 100 years of experience in serving Southern and rural Colorado, with key lending relationships across the state.
“We strive to provide opportunities for equal access to capital for entrepreneurs and small businesses in rural Colorado. This partnership builds on our 100-year history supporting the agricultural industry and is one more way for us to do that,” said Kent Curtis, President and CEO of First Southwest Bank. “Our goal is to make it easy for farmers and ranchers to qualify and receive low-interest, fixed-rate loans to launch or expand their ag business with the goal of sustaining Colorado’s agricultural industry for generations.”
The Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program was created with the goal of expanding access to land, capital, equipment, and conservation tools through innovative financing. This program is intended to help increase participation from next-generation farmers, expand diversity within farming, and strengthen Colorado agriculture. It offers a low, fixed interest rate and a flexible repayment schedule for anywhere from one to 20 years. The loan program is administered by First Southwest Bank, a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), in partnership with its nonprofit affiliate First Southwest Community Fund, which provides risk mitigating gap funding to emerging and existing businesses.
“This important partnership will build our agricultural system in an equitable way to make Colorado’s ag industry stronger and more diverse,” said Azarel Madrigal, Executive Director, First Southwest Community Fund. “In the words of Cesar Chavez, ‘History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions — not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.’ This revolutionary program will lead the change and be remembered as a catalyst for equity.”
These loans are intended to build resilience in agricultural systems by expanding opportunities and increasing access to funds for individuals and businesses that have traditionally lacked access to conventional finance. To help ensure borrower success, CDA will help applicants access technical assistance as needed, including translation, help drafting business plans, gathering documentation, or developing materials.
This program will help future generations of ag business owners by issuing loans not just to farmers and ranchers, but to any qualified applicant who dreams of owning a business within the farm-to-market infrastructure, which includes processors, distributors, and other businesses that provide an economic benefit to Colorado farmers and ranchers.
As loans are repaid, the funds will be redistributed to additional qualified applicants. The loan’s revolving format ensures the funding is always helping Colorado residents and our economy by generating jobs, fostering small business development, and increasing access to Colorado agricultural products.
The Colorado Agricultural Future Loan Program aims to provide a critical foundation for new and beginning ag businesses and serve as a foothold into more traditional lending for these businesses. Interested applicants can get more information about the steps involved in the lending process and fill out the interest form at ag.colorado.gov/loans.
–Olga Robak, Colorado Department of Agriculture