Guaranteed Loans - Lender Toolkit

Lenders who are subject to credit examination and supervision by an acceptable State or Federal regulatory agency and have experience in agricultural lending are eligible to participate in the FSA Guaranteed Farm Loan Program.

FSA has 4 programs lenders use to make and service guaranteed loans. Non-traditional lenders and lenders without agricultural lending experience may become a Micro Lender. Lenders who have limited experience with FSA guaranteed loans may qualify as a Standard Eligible Lender. Lenders who have a positive track record with the FSA guarantee program may participate in the Certified Lender Program or the Preferred Lender Program.

For additional resources, including access to LINC, please check out the Guaranteed Loans - Lender Toolkit Frequently Used Resources.

  • Guaranteed Express Newsletter - February 2018

Micro Lender

The Micro Lender category allows non-traditional lenders to offer EZ Guaranteed Loans.  EZ Guaranteed Loans provide lenders with up to a 95 percent guarantee by USDA against losses on farm operating and farm ownership loans for new and existing small, niche, underserved and non‑traditional farms, such as truck farms, farms participating in direct marketing and sales such as farmers’ markets.

Micro Lender Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Non-Traditional Lender

Micro Lenders must be subject to appropriate oversight or certification from agencies, such as a state or federal regulatory agency, the Department of Treasury or FSA.  For now, FSA has determined that regulated lenders with no agricultural lending experience, Community Development Financial Institutions and Rural Rehabilitation Corporations are eligible to participate as a Micro Lender.

Micro Lender Eligibility Criteria

Lenders applying for Micro Lender status must have originated at least 20 business loans and must not have a loss rate higher than 3 percent over the past seven years.  In addition, the lender must demonstrate they have the resources to make and service farm loans.

How to Become a Micro Lender

An FSA Guaranteed Micro Lender application (Form FSA-2205) can be obtained from the local FSA office or can be downloaded and printed using the Forms link below.  After completing the required paperwork, the applicant lender should submit the Micro Lender application to their local FSA office.

After a Micro Lender application is submitted, FSA reviews the application and determines if the lender is eligible for Micro Lender status.  The lender will receive notification throughout the process and will receive final notification as to whether their application is approved or not.  If the application is approved, FSA notifies the lender in writing and the lender may then begin submitting EZ Guaranteed Loan applications.

Standard Eligible Lender

A Standard Eligible Lender (SEL) is the basic participant in the guaranteed loan program. SEL was designed for lenders who have little or no experience with FSA guaranteed loans. This status is granted for the purpose of allowing lenders to make and service these loans. After a lender gains experience with the guaranteed loan program, it can apply for CLP or PLP status.

Standard Eligible Lender Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become A Standard Eligible Lender

Lenders must be experienced in making and servicing farm loans and also have the ability to manage the loan for which they are requesting a guarantee. Lenders' losses and deficiencies in their guaranteed loan portfolio must be at a level which indicates to FSA that they can properly administer guaranteed loans. The lender must be subject to credit examination and supervision by an acceptable State or Federal regulatory agency and must maintain an office near enough to the collateral's location so it can properly service the loan.

Becoming a CLP or PLP Lender After SEL

To participate in CLP or PLP, lenders must make a minimum number of guaranteed loans and have losses that do not exceed a specific threshold (see CLP or PLP sections of this page for more information). The length of time necessary to meet the requirements for CLP and PLP depends on how effectively the lender uses the guarantee program.

Certified Lender Program

The Certified Lender Program (CLP) permits lenders with a proven track record in making and servicing guaranteed loans to operate under streamlined procedures. CLP lenders are able to use their own forms if they are approved by FSA, and the information these lenders have to submit to FSA is minimal.

Certified Lender Program Frequently Asked Questions

Becoming a Certified Lender

To attain CLP status, lenders must:

  • provide evidence of being a Standard Eligible Lender;
  • have closed a minimum of 10 FSA guaranteed loans (farm ownership, soil and water, and operating loans/lines of credit); 5 of which must have been closed within the past 2 years;
  • have guaranteed loan losses - net of recovery - that do not exceed 7 percent;
  • demonstrate the capacity to process and service FSA guaranteed operating loans and lines of credit;
  • certify that the person designated to process and service FSA guaranteed loans has attended FSA loan processing and servicing training within the previous 12 months or will attend training within the next 12 months;
  • agree to send to annual training the designated person from each of the lender's offices who is responsible for processing guaranteed loans;
  • agree to use forms acceptable to FSA for processing, analyzing, securing and servicing FSA guaranteed loans and lines of credit. (Note: Lenders should submit copies of financial statements, cash flow plans, loan agreements, analysis sheets, security agreements, and promissory notes with their request for CLP status.)

Advantages of Being a CLP lender

CLP lenders have the flexibility of using their own forms and many of their own processes with minimal Agency involvement to administer guarantee loans. Loan applications are typically approved in 14 days or less.

Term for CLP Status

CLP lenders are granted Certified Lender status for a 5-year period, after which the status may be renewed upon request. Lenders must continue to meet the eligibility criteria and show that they have acted according to conditions outlined in their Lender's Agreement.

Preferred Lender Program

The Preferred Lender Program, or PLP, is the top status that a lender can hold in the FSA guaranteed loan program. PLP was developed to reward experienced lenders by:

  1. streamlining and adding flexibility to the loan application and servicing requirements;
  2. expediting loan approval and other FSA decisions; and
  3. allowing lenders to originate and service guaranteed loans the way they do other loans in their portfolio.

Lenders with "Preferred" status have broad authority in making and servicing FSA guaranteed loans and can utilize their own underwriting and servicing policies. Lenders who apply for PLP outline the manner in which they intend to process and service FSA loan guarantees. This "credit management system" becomes the basis for approval decisions on applications they submit.

Preferred Lender Program Frequently Asked Questions

Becoming a Preferred Lender

To attain PLP status, lenders must:

  • provide evidence that they meet all Certified Lender Program eligibility criteria;
  • have guaranteed loan losses - net of recovery - that do not exceed 3 percent;
  • have closed a minimum of 20 FSA guaranteed farm ownership, soil and water, and operating loans/lines of credit in the past 5 years;
  • demonstrate a consistent, above average ability to process and service guaranteed loans;
  • have an acceptable credit management system (CMS), approved by FSA, for originating and servicing guaranteed loans. The CMS is based on the lender's written credit policies and underwriting standards, loan documentation requirements, analysis of new loan requests, portfolio management, and other information. Click here for an example CMS we prepared to help lenders develop their PLP applications.

Advantages of Being a PLP Lender

PLP lenders have the flexibility of using their own policies to administer guaranteed loans, which should minimize the lender's administrative costs. To apply for an FSA guarantee, the PLP lender need only submit a one-page application form and a loan narrative discussing the "5 Cs" of credit: character, capacity, capital, collateral and conditions. FSA must act upon PLP loan requests within 14 calendar days; otherwise, the loan is approved automatically.

Term for PLP Status

As with the Certified Lender program, qualifying Preferred Lenders are granted PLP status for a 5-year period, after which they can request to a renewal. Renewals are granted if FSA finds that the PLP lender continues to meet the eligibility criteria and performs according to conditions outlined in the Lender's Agreement.

Guaranteed Loans - Lender Toolkit Frequently Used Resources

Participate in 'Meet A Lender'

Lenders interested in being featured in “Meet the Lender” can contact FSA at To be featured in “Meet the Lender,” lenders must be participants in FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Programs. In order to be a participating lender, the lender must be active in agricultural lending, subject to examination and supervision by an acceptable State or Federal regulator, and must be eligible to participate in government contracts and programs. Lenders should prepare an article of not more than 1000 words. At a minimum the article should provide the lender’s name, contact information, the geographic area it services, the type of loans it offers, and how FSA’s guaranteed loan program helps the lender and its farmers.

FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Maximum Interest Rates

Online Electronic Transaction Options

The Lender Interactive Network Connect (LINC) system provides Guaranteed Lenders the ability to conduct business with FSA online.  LINC's primary functions allow lenders to:

  • enter Loan Closings
  • submit Electronic Fee Payments
  • submit Semi-Annual Status Reports
  • submit Default Status Reports
  • view specific Loan Information
  • establish Lender Pre-Authorized Debit (PAD)

The LINC User Guide (pdf, 1,590KB) provides step by step instructions for FSA's Guaranteed Lenders in completing these unctions. If you need additional assistance using LINC, please contact your local FSA Service Center.

 In order to ensure personal identity when accessing LINC, you must first register for a USDA eAuthentication Level 2 Account. This process is easy and starts online by creating a user ID and password and confirming your email. The final step requires visiting a local USDA Service Center to complete the eAuthentication process.

Regulations and Other Guidance