Farming and ranching played a significant role in the settling of the American West. After the Homestead Act of 1862 promised large amounts of land to settlers, farmers began spreading across the western Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and all along the West Coast. Though they faced difficulties—including learning how to flourish among the arid lands and droughts of the area—they also helped shape the history of this region of the United States.
Ever since, agriculture has played a fundamental role in the life, economy, and evolution of these states. Today’s agriculture industry is full of opportunities that farmers and ranchers in the West can seize with the help of agricultural loans. From the industries that thrive in this region to tips for securing the best loan possible, this guide covers everything you should know about farm loans in the West.
Agricultural Opportunities in the West
Like in any region of the United States, the West is home to a versatile range of farms, ranches, vineyards, nurseries, and countless other agricultural businesses. From starting your first hobby farm to expanding the ranch that’s been in your family for generations, you can do just about anything with the right tools, knowledge, and finances.
However, there are some businesses and industries that have long since flourished in the West, playing a huge role in the history of the American agriculture industry. There’s the Wheat Belt of the western Great Plains, which stretches as far west as Colorado and Montana. Ranching is also a historical industry in states like Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah. And wine regions have flourished in the rich, fertile soils of Northern California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. These are just a few examples of the major industries that thrive in the West. Below is a more in-depth look at the role agriculture plays in some of the western states.
With around 43 million acres of farmland across the state, California is the highest agriculture producer in the country. It also boasts an incredibly versatile range of agricultural products. Dairy products and cattle are a huge export, as are fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Some of California’s most famous exports are almonds, grapes, citrus fruits, and berries. Speaking of grapes, the state also has a significant wine industry, making it a popular place for vineyards.
From the plains to the mountains, Colorado is full of diverse environments that provide a wide range of agriculture opportunities. Cattle is by far the biggest agriculture industry in this state. Dairy, corn, wheat, hay, potatoes, eggs, poultry, hogs, sheep, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are also popular in the Centennial State.
Oregon is one of the top 10 agricultural states in the nation. It fulfills many niche corners of the agriculture sector, exporting unconventional but popular products like hops, peppermint, grass seeds, and nursery trees. Products like dairy, cattle, berries, potatoes, onions, pears, and cherries also thrive in Oregon.
Washington is home to an incredibly diverse range of agricultural products. Apples are its biggest export, making it the number one apple producer in the country. Washington’s agriculture industry also revolves around milk, cattle, potatoes, cherries, hops, hay, grapes, and more.
Farming Challenges in Western States
Despite the vast opportunities available, farming in the West isn’t without its challenges. One of the biggest considerations in much of the western United States is water availability. The dry land and arid climate make farming and ranching more difficult.
Many farmers turn to grazing animals, such as sheep and cattle, that thrive on the open plains. Drought-resistant crops like beans, corn, and grains are also popular in the West because of the climate. Meanwhile, clever irrigation and water conservation techniques are essential for many agriculture operations in the West. Knowing the challenges you’ll face on your land—such as the need for a robust irrigation system—is necessary for making a successful business plan and finding the right farm loan.
Reasons To Look for a Farm Loan
No matter where you are or what you want to do with your land, a farm loan can help. You can purchase new land, invest in new equipment, build or upgrade structures, hire new employees, and fund other business efforts like marketing, logistics, and more. Pretty much everything on your farm costs money, and an agriculture loan helps you get that money so you can continue operating successfully.
What To Know Before You Apply
A little preparation makes the process of obtaining a farm loan much smoother. Thankfully, the general process of applying for an agriculture loan is the same no matter where you live in the United States. You’ll need a strong idea of what you want to do with your land, records proving your agriculture experience, financial statements, and other relevant information to apply for the loan.
If you’re just starting out on your farm, a comprehensive business plan is a must. This plan will specifically define what you want to do with your land. It includes a mission statement, business values, a market analysis, your target demographic, short- and long-term goals, and so much more. It should also outline financial plans with a budget, lists of costs, and an expected return on investment.
Additionally, you’ll need financial records like proof of current employment, tax returns, and more. As with any loan, your credit score will influence the options available to you. If your credit is on the lower side, you’ll want to supplement it with things like proof of relative experience or high-value assets. Preparing all of your documents and keeping this information organized makes it easier to fill out applications, discuss opportunities with your lender, and streamline the loan process overall.
Choose a Lender With Experience in the West
There are numerous lenders available who can help you obtain a farm loan, but it’s a good idea to prioritize agriculture lending companies that have specific experience working with farmers in the West. A lender with working knowledge of regional agricultural industries can walk you through everything you need to know about farm loans in the West. They can also offer guidance and resources specific to you and your business, giving you the support you need to make the most of your financing.
At Farm Plus Financial, we have experience working with all kinds of agriculture businesses in the West. With our expert knowledge and our network of trusted local appraisers, we can help you find the loan option that works best for you. Partner with our team today to explore your options and start the approval process for your agriculture loan.