The commissioner shall establish a shared savings loan program to provide loans that enable farmers to adopt best management practices that emphasize sufficiency and self-sufficiency in agricultural inputs, including energy efficiency, reduction or improved management of inputs, increasing energy production by agricultural producers, and environmental improvements.
(a) The shared savings loan program must provide loans for purchase of new or used machinery and installation of equipment for projects that make environmental improvements and enhance farm profitability. Eligible loan uses do not include seed, fertilizer, or fuel.
(b) Loans may not exceed $40,000 per individual applying for a loan and may not exceed $160,000 for loans to four or more individuals on joint projects. The loan repayment period may be up to seven years as determined by project cost and energy savings. The interest rate on the loans must not exceed six percent.
(c) Loans may only be made to residents of this state engaged in farming.
(a) Applications for loans must be made to the commissioner on forms prescribed by the commissioner.
(b) The applications must be reviewed, ranked, and recommended by a loan review panel appointed by the commissioner. The loan review panel shall consist of two lenders with agricultural experience, two resident farmers of the state using sustainable agriculture methods, two resident farmers of the state using organic agriculture methods, a farm management specialist, a representative from a postsecondary education institution, and a chair from the department.
(c) The loan review panel shall rank applications according to the following criteria:
(1) realize savings to the cost of agricultural production;
(2) reduce or make more efficient use of energy or inputs;
(3) increase overall farm profitability; and
(4) result in environmental benefits.
(d) A loan application must show that the loan can be repaid by the applicant.
(e) The commissioner must consider the recommendations of the loan review panel and may make loans for eligible projects.
The amount in the revolving loan account is appropriated to the commissioner to make loans under this section and administer the loan program. The interest on the money in the revolving loan account and the interest on loans repaid to the state may be spent by the commissioner for administrative expenses. The commissioner shall collect and disseminate information relating to projects for which loans are given under this section.
Appropriations in Laws 1998, chapter 401, section 6, must be used for revolving loans for demonstration projects of farm manure digester technology. Notwithstanding the limitations of subdivision 2, paragraphs (b) and (c), loans under this subdivision are no-interest loans in principal amounts not to exceed $200,000 and may be made to any resident of this state. Loans for one or more projects must be made only after the commissioner seeks applications. Loans under this program may be used as a match for federal loans or grants. Money repaid from loans must be returned to the revolving fund for future projects.