Beginning Farmers: How and Why to Get A Farm Number

If you didn’t grow up on a farm, never showed goats at the county fair, and your dad wasn’t a member of the County FSA Board, the concept of registering your farm with the Farm Service Agency may be a new one. I just walked down to the Chatham County FSA office, where the friendly Claudia Austin and her assistant Vonetta French gave me an overview of how it works and why it might be useful to register your farm.

Why?

The Farm Service Agency is USDA’s county office. They provide farm loans, crops insurance, and disaster assistance compensation. You must register your farm with the FSA to be eligible for any of these programs. You must also have a farm number to apply for programs that the NRCS – Natural Resource Conservation Service – offers, including EQIP – Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

Registering your farm means that when programs become available that could be useful to you, you will already be in the FSA system and ready to apply. If you join their mailing list, you can be one of the first to know when a new program is announced.

Another benefit is that your farm will be counted in the Agricultural Census. Accurate data on the number of farms in your county could translate into more resources to support farms in your area.

Finally, having a farm number makes you eligible to elect County FSA Board members. Board members help determine which programs will be available in your county.

How to Get a Farm Number

  1. Make an appointment with your local FSA office. The office is usually in the same building as the Cooperative Extension. Look here for county office info.
  2. Prepare to spend 30 min to an hour with the officer, and be ready to provide your address along with your SS# or EIN#. They will locate your farm parcel through the county GIS system, check to see if it already has a number, and if not – issue you a number.

Good to Know

There is no minimum acreage to register as a farm.

If you purchased your land in the past few months, you must bring your property deed to the FSA office, as the system may not be updated to recognize your name associated with your property.

If you sign up for a program, be prepared that the FSA will perform random spot checks to verify that you are doing what you claim to be doing on your farm.

Getting a farm number is NOT the same as getting agricultural tax exemption. To do this, you need to register with the NC Department of Revenue.

Getting a farm number is free!

Thanks to Kate Brun of Lucky Leaf Gardens, whose question inspired me to write this post.

Goats at Lindale Farms benefit from a 2013 TCRF grant.


About the author

Francesca Hyatt is the director for Come to the Table, a project that engages the faith community in identifying and supporting initiatives that relieve hunger and sustain local agriculture. She has also worked with RAFI’s farm advocacy program, providing financial counseling to farmers in distress as well as serving as a field coordinator for RAFI’s farmer grant program.