Vilsack Announces Grants to Support Beginning Farmers and Ranchers across 24 States
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $18 million in grants to organizations across 24 states that will help beginning farmers and ranchers with the training and resources needed to run productive, sustainable farms. Under the Secretary's leadership since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has driven a number of efforts meant to spur interest in agriculture and provide the necessary support to young, beginning and socially-disadvantaged producers. Vilsack said investing in beginning farmers, ranchers and producers is not only a smart investment, but one that is vital to our nation's national and economic security.
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) established through the 2008 Farm Bill. In his June 30, 2010 testimony before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, the Secretary reminded Congress of the need to attract thousands of new producers in the coming years as American farmers and ranchers continue to age.
USDA makes BFRDP grants to organizations that implement education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer. At least 25 percent of the 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.
BFRDP will provide $18 million in funding this year, the fourth year of the program. For more information on the BFRDP program, and for a list of fiscal year 2012 awards, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.
Beginning farmers, by USDA definition, are individuals with 10 years or less experience operating farms. Beginning farmers are in all age ranges, racial and ethnic groups, and both male and female. Currently, 30 percent of principal operators of farms are 65 years old or more, while the average age of U.S. farmers has climbed from 54 in 1997 to 57 in 2007. Research by USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) finds that the two most common and important challenges faced by beginning farmers are (1) having the market opportunity to buy or rent suitable land and (2) having capital to acquire land of a large enough scale to be profitable.
BFRDP is just one tool to address these challenges, along with greater access to credit including a new microloan program, a new land contract guarantee program, risk management education for beginning and socially disadvantaged producers, and new online resources such as www.start2farm.gov and the Know Your Farmer Compass.