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Updated: May 13, 2024

USDA looks to jumpstart labor housing construction loan program for Maine farmers

building with red siding and roll-up doors Courtesy / U.S. Department of Agriculture Fifth-generation Spear Farms Inc. in Nobleboro is one of many farms across Maine that offer on-farm housing to some employees.

Loan and grant programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are available to help agriculture producers and farmers build and improve housing for their workers.

But to date, the USDA said only two Maine employers have taken advantage of the multifamily off-farm housing construction funds: Worcester Wreath and Mano en Mano, an immigrant and farm worker support program in Milbridge.

There has been interest in on-farm housing. Fifth-generation Spear Farms Inc., a vegetable and beef producer in Nobleboro, is one of many farms across Maine that offer on-farm housing to some employees. 

“We know that Maine’s housing shortage affects employers across the spectrum,” said Rhiannon Hampson, the department’s Rural Development Maine state director. “We encourage everyone engaged in agricultural production to look at these programs to identify areas of collaboration and support.”

The department has reopened both programs, which are expected to be useful not only to the agriculture industry but to businesses, municipalities and nonprofits, like Mano en Mano, that support agriculture.

Labor housing help

The department’s On-Farm Labor Housing Program offers long-term, low interest loans to farmers for new construction and preservation of housing units for farmworkers. Farm owners, family farm partnerships, farm corporations and associations of farmers are eligible.

To learn more, click here. On May 14 at 1 p.m., the department will host a workshop about On-Farm Labor Housing loans. To register for the webinar, click here.

The Off-Farm Labor Housing Program is accepting applications for loans and grants for new construction of housing units for farmworkers and to repair existing USDA-financed multifamily housing properties for year-round and seasonal domestic farmworkers.

Farmers, nonprofits, local governments and federally recognized tribes can apply for grants and loans of up to $40,000 per unit. The funding may be used to make improvements, repairs or modifications to address accessibility compliance and health and safety issues.  For more information, click here.

Questions may be directed to

“Talk with your partners, co-ops, associations, town governments and fellow farmers to see if there’s a way to include these programs in your labor planning,” Hampson recently told a group of Maine agriculture stakeholders.

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