WASHINGTON - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced increased opportunities for producers as a result of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill expands lending opportunities for thousands of farmers and ranchers to begin and continue operations, including greater flexibility in determining eligibility, raising loan limits, and emphasizing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.

Changes that will take effect immediately include: elimination of loan term limits for guaranteed operating loans, modification of the definition of "beginning farmer," using the average farm size for the county as a qualifier instead of the median farm size, and modification of the Joint Financing Direct Farm Ownership Interest Rate to 2 percent less than the regular Direct Farm Ownership rate, with a floor of 2.5 percent. (Previously, the rate was established at 5 percent.) Other changes: increase of the maximum loan amount for Direct Farm Ownership down payments from $225,000 to $300,000, elimination of the rural residency requirement for Youth Loans (allowing urban youths to benefit), debt forgiveness on Youth Loans, increase of the guarantee amount on Conservation Loans from 75 to 80 percent and 90 percent for socially disadvantaged borrowers and beginning farmers. Also, microloans will not count toward loan term limits for veterans and beginning farmers.

Additional modifications must be implemented through the rule-making processes. Visit the FSA Farm Bill website for detailed information and updates to farm loan programs.