Financial institutions that make 20 or fewer loans a year backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration may participate in a new program for small rural lenders.

The Rural Lender Advantage is in a pilot stage in Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming. In Utah, the first Rural Lender Advantage Loan was approved at the First National Bank of Layton.

The program aims to increase the SBA's reach in rural areas. In the past two years, 400 fewer banks took advantage of SBA programs nationwide.

Key features of the new program include a simpler application for loans of $350,000 or less; three to five days' processing time for routine loans; an SBA guaranty of 85 percent of a loan of $150,000 or less, and 75 percent if the loan is higher.

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