USDA is providing $17.8 million for 37 projects aimed at helping a new generation of farmers and ranchers make successful careers in agriculture. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the grants at a meeting at Iowa State University today (Aug. 17).
The investment is being made through USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $126 million into projects targeting new and beginning farmers and ranchers through BFRDP.
“Looking back on the past seven years, I am extremely proud of what USDA has accomplished for rural America,” said Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa. “Even as this (Obama) administration ends, the important work of USDA will continue for the next generation and beyond.”
Vilsack said USDA sees new and beginning farmers and ranchers as a critical force in “sustaining food security, food safety, and many other aspects of agriculture. The Beginning Farmer Program, and the forums that we are planning, will be important steps in helping young people, returning veterans and others access the tremendous opportunities in the agriculture sector.”
The secretary announced a series of Fall Forums that USDA will host in the coming months to highlight the progress made on the top issues facing the future of agriculture and set the stage for the next administration to continue to support a strong future for American agriculture.
Fall Forums scheduled
The series of USDA Fall Forums will be hosted in partnership with leading universities across the country. Each forum will focus on a pressing agricultural issue, including land tenure and the next generation of agriculture, climate change, export markets, local and regional food systems, and groundbreaking agricultural research. High-ranking USDA officials will lead the forums and facilitate discussions with regional stakeholders to lay the groundwork for the next steps.
“With the average age of the American farmer exceeding 58 years, USDA recognizes the need to bring more people into agriculture,” said Vilsack. “Over the course of this administration, USDA has engaged its resources to provide greater support to the farmers of the future by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; extending new conservation opportunities; offering appropriate risk management tools; and increasing outreach, education, and technical support.”
Through lending assistance programs, like the Farm Service Agency's new microloan program, USDA prioritized support for new farmers, providing improved access to credit, land, and equipment.
USDA has also provided greater access to quality crop insurance coverage to over 13,500 new and beginning farmers and ranchers with special crop insurance benefits designed just for them. Thanks to this program, beginning farmers and ranchers have saved more than $14 million in premiums and administrative fees. More information on USDA's assistance for beginning farmers and ranchers can be found at www.usda.gov/NewFarmers.
Less than 10 years experience
BFRDP, administered through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, has been a key part of this effort and supports educational programs to assist beginner farmers and ranchers who have less than 10 years of experience in the industry, including veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers. The program supports workshops, educational teams, training and technical assistance throughout the United States.
Vilsack said this year’s awards will be made in 27 states and the District of Columbia to help fund a range of projects by partner organizations, like the Iowa-based National Farmers Organization that will use $588,948 in funding to assist 900 beginning organic dairy and grain producers over the next three years.
NFO will provide workshops, mentoring and other assistance in 11 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
New Mexico State University and the Institute of American Indian Arts will partner to use $598,030 to provide education, mentoring and one-on-one technical assistance to American Indian Pueblo beginning farmers. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, based in North Carolina, will use $513,959 in funding for Farm Pathways, a program to deliver whole farm training, farmer-to-farmer networking and farmland access.
Sunbelt state grants:
Arkansas Land and Community Development Corp., Brinkley, Ark., $481,080
ALBA Organics, Salinas, Calif., $600,000
North-South Institute, Inc., Davie, Fla., $330,828
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Overland Park, Kan., $380,433
Future Harvest Inc., Cockeysville, Md., $597,599
ECO City Farms, Edmonston, Md., $352,095
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Asheville, N.C., $600,000
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M., $598,030
Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $595,133
Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn., $470,083
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $600,000
National Immigrant Farming Initiative, El Paso, Texas, $541,950
Abstracts for this year's funded projects can be viewed on NIFA's reporting website.
Additional information about USDA support for new farmers and ranchers is available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers.