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How to Start a Farm: Maintain Your Operation

Take care of your operation and it will take care of you. Maintaining your farm operation by keeping track of important financial information, deadlines, and resources will help you grow and protect your business.

Read more about maintaining your business below, get an overview of the beginning farmer's journey, or jump to a different section of the farmer's journey.

Annual Crop Acreage Reporting

You must file crop acreage reports annually to be eligible for various USDA programs, including crop insurance, safety net, and disaster assistance programs. You must report your crop acres after each planting. The deadlines to file crop acreage reports vary by crops and by state and county so make sure you stay up to date with deadlines in your area.

If this is your first-year farming, make sure you have a farm number for your land and that you are in the Farm Service Agency (FSA) system. To get a farm number, visit your local service center with proof of identity, a copy of your deed or any leasing documents, and any entity documentation for your business.

Contact your local USDA Service Center to make an appointment to file your acreage report with FSA using the Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) or contact your crop insurance agent.

Visit our Crop Acreage Report page for more information on how to file these reports.

Two women bend down to work with produce

Manage Your Finances

As you run your business, it’s important to keep records to monitor your farm’s financial performance, create financial statements, keep track of expenses, and prepare your tax return.

Record Keeping

Record keeping helps you keep track of your business development, so hold onto items such as:

  • Electronic records
  • Travel, transportation, entertainment, and gift expenses
  • Employment taxes
  • Excise taxes
  • Assets

These items can usually be found in purchase and sales invoices, real estate closing statements, canceled checks, and bank statements.

Filing Taxes

It is crucial to keep track of your finances for your business to determine the correct amount of tax and prepare an accurate tax return.

Filing your tax return can depend on a number of different factors from your business structure to where you are. Make sure you’re familiar with your federal, state, and local tax requirements as well. Visit the Small Business Administration's tax information page to learn more about business taxes.

For more information about financial records and detailed resources on recordkeeping and tax filing, visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) site. Visit the Taxes and USDA Programs page and FarmAnswers.org for more guidance on filing taxes and navigating finances related to USDA programs.

Manage Risk

Agriculture is an inherently risky business. Some risks are everyday business risks; some risks are brought on by natural disasters. Producers need to regularly manage for financial, marketing, production, human resource, and legal risks.

USDA offers tools to assist producers as they meet these planning needs, including access to risk-management tools, such as crop insurance, or information regarding markets and risk, technical assistance coping with common risks, and, when applicable, assistance recovering from natural disasters.

The Ag Risk and Farm Management Library offers thousands of materials for agricultural producers and professionals with information on risk management, marketing, financial management, and more.

Market Risks

USDA can help you manage the specific market risks that you as a farmer or rancher face. USDA offers programs that can help protect your operation from the impact of natural disaster and offer price support for drops in prices or revenues.

Purchasing the necessary insurance beforehand can also help mitigate risk to your operation and products. To find more information on different insurance policies available to you, visit our Build Your Farm Operation page.

Visit the Protection and Recovery page's price support section for more information regarding market risks and how to manage them.

Disaster Assistance

In many circumstances, USDA's FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide assistance for losses resulting from natural disasters such as drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, pest infestation, and other calamities. If you have experienced losses, you may be eligible to receive assistance from USDA.

Find out more about these programs on our Protection and Recovery page or check out the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool to determine your eligibility for specific disaster relief programs.

Manage Land and Resources

Implementing conservation practices on your land can help mitigate impacts from disasters and improve the overall quality of your land. There are many resources available for new farmers and ranchers looking to protect and enhance their environments, including technical assistance and ways to help you invest in your land to ensure the future of your farmland.


Continue Your Education

Agriculture is always evolving and it's important to stay aware of oppourtunities. USDA and many other agencies offer resources about current research, techniques, technologies and programs to consider for your own operation.

  • The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) collects and provides census data every five years and survey data annually on agriculture including agricultural production, economics, demographics and the environment. You can use these different statistics to learn more about agriculture in your region.
  • The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grants and education programs promote profitability; stewardship of the land, air, and water; and quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and their communities. SARE is one of the only federal research programs that fund on-farm research and that farmers can directly apply for.

Set Up Your Farmers.gov Account

Farmers.gov offers an online portal where you can keep track of your farm loan payments and manage your conservation business all in one place. You can also use your account to upload, download, and sign forms online as well as use a variety of tools catered to you.

How to create a farmers.gov account

Connect with the Ag Community

There are many leadership opportunities for beginning farmers to contribute their voices and experience. Through USDA, you can take advantage of several key opportunities like committee elections, research and promotion programs, and federal advisory committees.

How to connect with your agricultural community

Stay Connected with USDA

Keep in touch with your local service center and inform them about any business changes and disasters or hardships you experience.

You can subscribe to free email and text message communications directly from your local USDA Service Center. You can receive important information on programs, eligibility requirements and deadlines from FSA, NRCS, RMA and other USDA agencies.

Subscribe to program and deadline updates

How to Start a Farm with USDA

Get an overview of the beginning farmer's journey or jump to a specific page below.

Find Your Local Service Center

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USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit offices.usda.gov.

Learn more about our Urban Service Centers.

Visit the Risk Management Agency website to find a regional or compliance office or to find an insurance agent near you.