In a meeting last week with new and beginning farmers at Iowa State University, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new investment of $17.8 million for 37 projects to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. The investment is made through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $126 million into projects targeting new and beginning farmers and ranchers through BFRDP.
In order to build upon the strong foundation of programs available to new and beginning producers, Vilsack also 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. 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 Administration to build on the progress USDA has made over the past seven years.
"Looking back on the past seven years, I am extremely proud of what USDA has accomplished for rural America. Even as this Administration ends, the important work of USDA will continue for the next generation and beyond," said Vilsack. "We see new and beginning farmers and ranchers as a critical force in sustaining food security, food safety, and many other aspects of agriculture that will become even more challenging as our global population grows. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development 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."
With the average age of the American farmer exceeding 58 years, USDA recognizes the need to bring more people into agriculture. 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.
BFRDP, administered through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), 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.
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 (NFO) 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.
2016 grants include:
- Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Fairbanks, Alaska, $369,500
- Arkansas Land and Community Development Corporation, Brinkley, Ark., $481,080
- ALBA Organics, Salinas, Calif., $600,000
- Colorado Economic Development Office, Denver, Colo., $239,970
- University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $597,598
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, D.C., $150,000
- North-South Institute, Inc., Davie, Fla., $330,828
- The Kohala Center, Inc., Waimea, Hawaii, $564,000
- Jannus Inc., Boise, Idaho, $597,867
- Angelic Organics Learning Center, Caledonia, Ill., $600,000
- National Farmers Organization, Ames, Iowa, $588,948
- Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Overland Park, Kan., $380,433
- Wolfe`s Neck Farm Foundation, Inc., Freeport, Maine, $573,256
- Third Sector New England, Inc., Boston, Mass., $249,657
- Tufts University, Medford, Mass., $599,796
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, South Deerfield, Mass., $595,533
- Future Harvest Inc., Cockeysville, Md., $597,599
- ECO City Farms, Edmonston, Md., $352,095
- Minnesota Food Association, Marine St. Croix, Minn., $159,626
- Land Stewardship Project, Minneapolis, Minn., $384,649
- Stone Child College, Box Elder, Mont., $265,179
- National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, Mont., $238,441
- National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, Mont., $231,679
- Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Asheville, N.C., $600,000
- Foundation for Agricultural and Resources Management, Medina, N.D., $513,959
- New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M., $598,030
- National Young Farmers Coalition, Hudson, N.Y., $574,150
- Just Food, New York, N.Y., $593,930
- Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Columbus, Ohio, $566,141
- The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $599,715
- Southside Community Land Trust, Providence, R.I., $596,517
- 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
- Greenbank Farm Management Group/Organic Farm School, Greenbank, Wash., $598,850
- Viva Farms, Mount Vernon, Wash., $599,999
Abstracts for this year's funded projects can be viewed on NIFA's reporting website.
Since BFRDP's 2009 inception, the agency has invested more than $126 million through 256 projects across the country. Previously funded projects include the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association which trained 75 new farmers who established 68 new farms. A University of the Virgin Islands project trained 304 crop and small livestock farmers with less than 10 years of experience, increasing their agricultural knowledge and skills. Additional information about USDA support for new farmers and ranchers is available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers.