What Is a Farm Number? Why Is It So Important for USDA Funding?

December 4, 2023

If you’re a farmer or rancher with land, you’ll likely consider boosting your farm’s profitability or protection with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm funding, such as grants, Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans, disaster assistance or crop insurance. Before you can apply, you’ll need one important set of numbers: a farm serial number (FSN), but for our purposes, we’ll just call it a farm number. 

Getting your farm number is an essential first step in applying for most USDA funding. If you’re wondering why a farm number is important and how it can help you achieve your goals of farm profitability, keep on reading.

Helpful tip: Staying organized and tracking your expenses can significantly boost your chances of success in obtaining funding?

What is a Farm Number and How Does It Help Me Receive Funding?

An FSA farm number is a number from the USDA that identifies where your farm is located. Just like a zip code identifies a specific area’s location, a farm number identifies your farm’s location. This is also a great way to identify yourself as a farm. To be clear, the farm number is attached to your land, not you as a farmer. That said, if you sell your land, the lucky buyer will already have their farm number set up. This is also true if you enter into a conservation easement. The farm number sticks with the land no matter who or what it’s passed on to.

A farm number can help you get government funding for your farm. You’re required to have an FSA farm number to apply for USDA grant and loan programs. Some of the programs that require a farm number include:

What’s more, we all know that in the world of agriculture, who you know can be the difference between profit and loss. A farm number gives you the chance to form a relationship with your local FSA office. Your local FSA office is an excellent resource for farm knowledge and funding opportunities. 

Here’s a plus. Once you have your farm number, it should also get you a step closer toward qualifying for agricultural sale tax exemptions. (To do this, you’ll need to register with your state’s department of revenue.) You’ll also be that much more ready to apply for new funding programs. There are two key ways to stay updated on new agricultural grants, loans and cost-share programs

  1. You can join FSA’s mailing list which will alert you to FSA programs
  2. You can get FarmRaise funding alerts directly to your inbox that include funding opportunities across federal departments (not just the FSA) and specific to your locale 

Boost Your Competitive Edge with Good Bookkeeping

The key to staying ahead of agribusiness trends is to stay organized. For those seriously considering grant or loan funding, a pivotal strategy for enhancing success involves meticulous tracking of all farm expenses and revenue transactions. This not only expedites the funding application process but also projects an image of impeccable organization to potential funders. Moreover, it ensures a seamless fulfillment of any reporting requirements linked to your grant or loan.

It’s important to find a user-friendly solution to hold your financial data. We’ve done a farm accounting software comparison for you, but ultimately found that most software just doesn’t cut it for farmers. That’s why we made FarmRaise Tracks to simplify and streamline the recording of every farm transaction on the go. 

Using a tool to help file and organize your expenses, revenue, inventory and mileage gives you a competitive advantage for funding. Remain consistently on top of your financial records, present a well-organized front and position yourself to swiftly capitalize on funding opportunities, whether for fencing or other farm projects. It also comes in handy during tax time. All of your financial data will be easily exportable and organized in Schedule F categories saving you a ton of time and stress.

You can demo the Tracks app for free and see how easy it is to keep track of your farm finances.

How Do I Get a Farm Number?

Good news! Farm numbers are as free as samples at your favorite wholesale store. You can apply for FSA farm records and a farm number by following these steps. 

First, you’ll want to contact your local FSA office. After a 30 to 60 minute in-person or virtual appointment, they’ll send you the paperwork you’ll need to complete. Be sure to have the following documentation:

  • Identifying documents like you driver’s license or state ID, your social security card or employer identification number
  • Your land documents like your deed or rental agreement. A copy of these should be okay.

For an individual applying, the paperwork should total about 22 pages. You’ll want to set aside at least two hours to complete the paperwork. If you’re applying as an entity, you’ll receive 24 pages of paperwork and an additional packet of paperwork for each member in the entity that is 13 pages each. In this scenario, you’ll want to allot more for the paperwork (the total time required will depend on if you have multiple members).

If you find this process time consuming and prefer to have someone else take care of all the paperwork for you, FarmRaise is happy to assist! Your time is valuable and our goal at FarmRaise is to build technology that enables a faster, simpler application process - so you can do what you're amazing at: farming! 

What Are FSA Records? 

Once you apply for a farm number, your operation will have what’s called “FSA records.” 

Think of your farm number as the file name of your FSA records. What’s in these records? Information that pertains to the FSA like land ownership, acreage, crop plantings, conservation practices, production history, program participation, financial transactions, and such.

That said, you may need to update your FSA records if aspects of your farm operations have changed. Here are some key aspects that typically require updating:

  • Ownership and operation: Changes in ownership or operator details like new partners or address changes.
  • Land use and size: Changes in the use of your land, amount of acreage, changes in field boundaries or adjustments in crop rotations.
  • Crop plantings: You’ll need to annually report information like crop type, planting dates and acres, acres planted and intended use.
  • Conservation practices: This one’s for the cover croppers and no-tillers out there. If you’ve made conservation changes you’ll need and want to report those. (These can make you a good candidate for funding.)
  • Production and yield: This is especially necessary if you’re in commodity programs or participate in any federal crop insurance programs.
  • Financial assistance: If you received a loan or got accepted into a financial assistance program you’ve got to update your FSA records.

For some farmers, you won’t need to update your FSA records often. For others it could be periodically. It all depends on the nature of your operation. Annual crop reporting is on an annual basis, while changes in ownership are reported as soon as they happen. You want to keep these records up to date you’re a good candidate for future funding and other supportive programs.

Farm numbers are just the beginning of a journey toward financial prosperity for your operation. They’re an essential tool to identify your farm or ranch, apply for assistance and more. Once you apply for your farm number, keep those FSA records updated and lean on FarmRaise for farm funding opportunities and farm recordkeeping.

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