Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner has announced that the forms and rules for USDA's Farm Loan Programs will be modernized by Jan. 1, 2008, to make it easier for America's farmers, ranchers and producers to apply for loans.

"This streamlining initiative is part of a historic transformation in agriculture farm lending programs," said Conner. "By making our processes simpler and more straightforward, we will more efficiently serve America's farmers and ranchers. We incorporated about 1,500 comments from nearly 600 members of the public in making these changes."

Over the past few years, USDA's Farm Service Agency has streamlined specific areas of its farm loan programs, such as the Guaranteed and Emergency Loan Programs, by revising loan making and servicing requirements and procedures to better serve applicants and borrowers.

Direct Loans Programs streamlining includes:

• Reducing the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations necessary to administer the Farm Loan Programs by more than 80 percent;

• Modifying requirements to more closely conform to those used by other lenders;

•Ensuring all forms are available on-line;

•Cutting nearly in half the number of forms required; and

•Making guidance more manageable by replacing nearly 40 instruction manuals with six handbooks.

The program rules and forms will officially change on Dec. 31, 2007. This will allow employees of the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers the program, time for nationwide training on the new forms and rules. Until then, FSA will follow current procedures.

The streamlining rule can be viewed via the Federal Register at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont07.html.

More information about FSA can be found by contacting a local FSA office or online at http://www.fsa.usda.gov; click on "Farm Loan Programs" for more information.