The Federal Reserve Board yesterday moved to keep money flowing to the nation's farmers by making it easier for small agricultural banks to borrow from the central bank some of the funds they need to loan to their farm customers.

The Fed said that while the "great bulk of farm banks appear to have adequate liquidity" -- funds they can lend to customers -- there are "liquidity strains" in some areas.

Because the demands for loans are high just before spring planting and almost nonexistent after crops are harvested, the Federal Reserve has always run a seasonal credit program for farm banks. But the Fed has expanded and eased some of the requirements of the program during the current economic crisis in agriculture.

The Fed said eligible banks -- generally those with fewer than $200 million in deposits and at least 17 percent of their loans to farms -- will be able to obtain a greater percentage of their seasonal lending needs from the Fed than they could before and at a fixed rate of 8.5 percent. The rate may differ if a bank comes in later for new loans under the special program. The loans must be repaid by the end of next February.