USDA Financing

Supporting Economic Growth with USDA Financing

If your business or project is located in a rural or suburban area, then you may be eligible for  USDA financing. In this article, we will take a look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program and if it could be a good solution for you and your business.


The purpose of the B&I program is to enhance and expand economic growth opportunities available to business owners in rural communities. This is achieved by extending additional credit through guaranteed loans, which allows lenders more flexibility when offering terms and amounts to rural borrowers.

Basic Criteria

To be eligible, a borrower must have or propose a business that:

  • Resides in a USDA eligible area – check property address here
  • Positively impacts the local environment or economy;
  • Produces new employment opportunities for local citizens;
  • Focuses on and emphasizes water conservation; or
  • Promotes the construction and use of renewable energy systems like solar.

Ideal borrowers have previous experience in the industry. All owners, individuals or entities, with at least a 20% ownership stake in the business being financed must be personal or corporate guarantors with full recourse.

Terms & Fees

The following illustrates certain terms and fees for borrowers that meet the B&I program criteria.

  • The program leverages a blended amortization and maturity based upon the use of funds, which typically ranges from 22 to 28 years.
    • The USDA allows up to:
      • 30-year terms for Real Estate and Improvements
      • 15-year terms (or useful remaining life) on Machinery and Equipment and Furniture Fixtures & Equipment
      • 7-year terms for Working Capital
  • Interest rates are usually very competitive in comparison to conventional rates
  • The guarantee structure is currently 80% for all loans
      • 70% maximum for loans $5-10 million omit
      • 60% maximum for loans over $10 million capping out at $25 million omit
  • LTV is up to 80%, but usually in the range of 72-78% due to certain ineligible budget costs in the Tangible Balance Sheet Equity (TBSE) test.
    • The USDA allows loan to value limits up to:
      • 80% for Real Estate and Improvements
      • 70% for Machinery and Equipment and Furniture Fixtures & Equipment
      • 50-60% for Inventory (depending upon the nature of the product
  • Standard fees are collected by the USDA, which is typically a guarantee fee of 3% of the Guaranteed Portion of the loan, a .5% fee of the Guaranteed Portion of the loan if your project involves construction, and then a 0.5% renewal fee each subsequent year dependent on the outstanding guaranteed principle balance.

Most traditional banks and lenders don’t offer the USDA’s B&I program because of its unique process and standards. Unless you specialize in originating these loans, offering them can be more trouble than it’s worth for banks and their borrowers. Live Oak is one of the few that is committed to understanding and actively participating in this program for eligible businesses.

Also, the USDA lending process is frontloaded with more documentation and research than most other business loans. This makes the process more stringent at the beginning, but easier to close on the backend of the process if borrowers make it through the early gauntlet.

Getting Started

Live Oak’s first step begins with project sizing and due diligence, which generally results in a project proposal letter to the borrower. From there, we support USDA environmental scoping, and order appraisal, IPR, and Phase I. Next, our team completes the underwriting and submits a full application to the USDA.

The USDA’s first step starts with a pre-application review that hopefully results in pre-approval. Once Live Oak’s application is processed, the USDA oversees environmental scoping of the project site and any potential impacts due to development. They then submit a full application to an internal committee for further review. The goal of this phase of the process is to produce a conditional commitment from the USDA, which also triggers Live Oak to deliver a commitment letter to the borrower.

Meanwhile, during this phase, you as the customer should provide both the lender and the USDA with full project details and a good faith deposit. The borrower will also concurrently support environmental scoping along with the lender. When applicable, the borrower must obtain complete construction plans and provide any necessary support to the lender for the appraisal, IPR and Phase 1. Furthermore, any other required documents must be sent to the lender for underwriting. The result of this phase is an equity obligation by the borrower via an executed commitment letter.

View our USDA Lending Process for a complete process overview.

Closing and Groundbreaking

Once Live Oak has delivered your commitment letter, we will begin completing our closing checklist and, if your project includes construction, introduce our Construction Loan Department to the process. This specialized construction team supports the USDA’s guarantee issuance process and helps you make plans with your contractor, architect, and any other construction vendors.

Meanwhile, the USDA will start processing Live Oak’s commitment and closing package with the end goal of a full guarantee issuance in mind.

At this point, you as the borrower should get:

  • Tangible Balance Sheet Equity statements certified by your CPA;
  • Continue to support Live Oak’s closing process with further required documents; and
  • Continue to support the USDA’s guarantee issuance process.

Of course, our ultimate goal is loan closing, full guarantee and groundbreaking of your new property if your project includes construction.

In addition to B&I loans, we also utilize other USDA financing programs such as Community Facilities, Water & Environmental Programs and Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) loans for Solar and Bioenergy projects.