Sometimes, it’s knowing the “possibilities” that differentiates one business from the next or puts a particular salesman one step ahead of another.

Here’s an example. If you had a “beginning farmer” walk into your dealership, did you know there are programs through the USDA that might help him pay for new equipment?

I was only somewhat aware that these existed, and I can’t say if they’re good or easy-to-use programs, but they do exist somewhere in the muddle of the USDA.

Back in mid-December, the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) asked Farm Equipment for some assistance in understanding what dealers know about such programs. So, working together, we sent out a survey to a few thousand dealers on a potential legislative proposal to create tax initiatives for young farmers and ranchers to purchase new farm equipment. More than 220 of you dealers responded. Here’s some of what the AEM survey turned up.

Question: Before this survey, were you aware of the USDA beginning farmer definition and the programs available to help beginning farmers?

Dealer Response: Yes 29%, No 71%

Question: Has your organization participated in USDA loan programs that assist beginning farmers?

Dealer Response: Yes 7.6%, No 71.4%, Don’t Know 21%

Question: In your experience, is it more difficult for beginning farmers to obtain credit than older producers?

Dealer Response: Yes 91.1%, No 8.9%

Question: Do the USDA direct or guaranteed operating loan programs meet beginning farmer’s equipment buying needs?

Dealer Response: Yes 21.4%, No 78.6%

Question: Do beginning farmers have difficulty qualifying for loans under the current USDA beginning farm definition  — particularly when coupled with the additional USDA operating loan program eligibility requirements?

Dealer Response: Yes 86.1%, No 13.9%

You get the idea. Most dealers either aren’t aware of these USDA loan programs or don’t like them if they do know about them.

Nonetheless, knowledge of such programs might help get some young customers off square one and pointed in “some” direction when it comes to buying new equipment. Considering that the USDA says that 22% of U.S. farms were “beginning” farms in 2007, it might be worth it for dealers to check it out.

First you’ll need to get by the definition of “beginning farmer.” Here it is:

“USDA currently defines a beginning farm as one operated by a farmer who has operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 years. Some beginning farms have more than one beginning farmer, and the 10-year requirement applies to all operators of the farm or ranch. Although they are not classified as beginning farms, some established farms also are operated jointly by established farmers with 10 years or less of experience.”

On the other hand …