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EFFINGHAM -- Farm Credit Illinois recently introduced an initiative to support new farmers during two young and beginning farmer forums, attended by more than 250 farmer participants in Springfield and Effingham.

The FreshRoots young and beginning farmers program provides lending assistance and learning incentives to farmers up to age 40 or in their first 10 years of farming. Eligible borrowers receive loan pricing discounts for five years on up to $1 million in farm real estate loans and $500,000 in operating loans. Participants earn up to $2,000 in FreshRoots stipends for attending learning workshops and can apply for one of the $5,000 Directors Cup awards, which annually recognize farmers demonstrating personal growth and professional development.

“Our members and Board of Directors voiced their desire for FCI to help equip today’s young and beginning farmers for a healthy start in their farming careers,” says Tom Tracy, FCI President & CEO. “As a member-owned and driven cooperative, we heard their requests and specifically tailored a FreshRoots program dedicated to Helping the Next Generation of Farm Families Succeed.”

“The FreshRoots learning incentives motivate participants to embrace an attitude of lifelong learning and offer an opportunity to see firsthand how beneficial half-day workshops are for their growth and development in their young farming careers,” says Steve Witges, FCI regional vice president. “Participants can use what they learn in the workshops when submitting a farm balance sheet and business plan with their loan application. We want to guide young and beginning farmers to evaluate their business, set goals, and create action plans as they start growing FreshRoots.”

Farm Credit Illinois is a farmer-owned and directed agricultural lending cooperative serving 11,000 farm families, agribusinesses, and rural landowners in the southern 60 counties of Illinois with competitive and flexible financing and crop insurance expertise. The association manages a $4.3 billion loan portfolio, provides 1.2 million acres of crop insurance coverage, and employs 210 staff based in the Mahomet central office and 14 regional office locations.

The U.S. Farm Credit System supports rural communities, farm families, and agriculture with credit and financial services. All Farm Credit Illinois news releases are available at


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