USDA Boosts Beginning Farmer Program

USDA last week awarded nearly $19 million in Beginning Farmer Development Program grants to groups providing education, training and technical assistance to help beginning farmers.

Published on: Oct 7, 2011

This autumn is shaping up to be a bountiful harvest of federal support for America's next generation of family farmers and ranchers. USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan on Sept. 30 announced the awarding of nearly $19 million in Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grants to organizations that provide education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers.

Thirty six projects in 23 states and territories--Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming--will receive funding through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the agency that administers the BFRDP grants.

Bountiful support for beginning farmers this harvest season

"These BFRDP grants, once again, show a serious commitment on the part of USDA and Congress to help foster the next generation of family farmers' and ranchers' entry into agriculture," says Traci Bruckner, assistant policy director at the Center for Rural Affairs at Lyons, Nebraska.

"There is more that we can and must do, especially in the next farm bill. But today we can celebrate another year support for rural America's future farmers and ranchers, support in the form of 105 grant awards - from over 300 applications - that has reached nearly every state, the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories and possessions."

New legislation is proposed, to further help beginning farmers

Deputy Secretary Merrigan's announcement comes on the eve of an important Congressional action, says Bruckner. A new piece of proposed legislation, The Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Opportunity Act of 2011, is slated to be introduced in October.

"In the current economic and political climate, it is crucial that we show the taxpayers that funding for specific farm bill programs is an investment in job creation, rural development and a more prosperous rural America," says Bruckner. "We know that our investment in beginning farmers and ranchers meets and exceeds those expectations.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 will include new credit, savings and investment, conservation initiatives as well as expanded outreach programs.

The new legislation seeks to expand, enhance current program

"USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program has been a tremendous investment in rural America's future, a small, efficient investment that is on the ground, right now, creating jobs, farms, ranches and real economic opportunity across rural America. And the new Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Opportunity Act is the natural evolution of that investment in rural America's future," concludes Bruckner.

To view a list of the 36 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grants awarded September 30, see:

http://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/beginningfarmerandrancher.cfm.

Assistance is needed to help raise a new crop of farmers

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Sept. 30 the awarding of the 36 grants totaling $18 million to organizations that provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers. As the average age of America's farmers and ranchers increases, and with traditional rural populations in decline, Merrigan says now is a critical time to train the next generation of American producers.

"Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges and these grants will provide needed training to help these producers become profitable and sustainable," said Merrigan. "American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in America, a critical contribution to the strength and prosperity of the country."

She added, "The sheer productivity of our farmers has given Americans access to a cheap, wholesome food supply and provides us with more discretionary income than much of the rest of the world. But our farmers are aging, and more of our young people are looking outside of farming for their careers. It's time to reverse these trends, keep farmers on the farm and help beginning farmers and ranchers thrive in their careers."

USDA's BFRDP program was established by the 2008 Farm Bill

USDA awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program or BFRDP. Under BFRDP, which was established through the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA makes grants to organizations that provide education, training, technical assistance and outreach to help beginning farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer.

At least 25% of the BFRDP program's funding supports the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in farming and ranching.

In the recent announcement September 30, projects were awarded in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Project highlights include:

A project in New York to provide workshops, conferences, apprenticeships, online resources and mentoring services for more than 1,200 beginning farmers by 2014.

A project in Montana to offer financial, credit and marketing training to beginning American Indian farmers.

A project in Mississippi to develop and disseminate training materials and decision-making tools to high school and college students who plan to enter farming. A full list of awardees can be found online at www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/beginning_farmer_awards.html.

BFRDP provided $18 million in funding this year, the third year of the program. Another $18 million will be made available in fiscal year 2012. For more information on the BFRDP program, visit: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/bfrdp/bfrdp.html.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is at www.nifa.usda.gov.

For farm management information and analysis, go to ISU's Ag Decision Maker site www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm and ISU Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson's site www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/farmmanagement.htm.