Online borrowing from USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be available to growers next year. FSA announced that the agency is in the process of replacing its online software to manage its $16 billion in farm loans. Online software from ECI called Web Equity Manager will power the agency's new Farm Business Plan. The Farm Business Plan replaces the current FSA accounting program that has been in use since the 1940s.

The online Farm Business Plan allows borrowers to document cash flow, expenses, assets, debts, and other financial information online. The information is shared with FSA farm loan officials or guaranteed lending partners. The new system will allow the FSA to handle requests more quickly and will save growers time because they won't need to make as many trips to USDA service centers.

Many FSA loan officers started using the online system this month for loan requests. By October, all FSA offices will be online for loans. FSA plans to launch the software for producers in mid-2005. Growers without computers may still complete worksheets by hand, and FSA staffers will enter the information.