Groups Tell Senate to Support Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers
April 19th, 2012
On Thursday, April 19, NSAC along with nearly 200 other organizations from across the country, delivered a letter to Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urging them to support funding in the new farm bill for two key programs that support the next generation of farmers, including beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers and ranchers.
NSAC collaborated with the Rural Coalition and many other organizations on the letter. The letter focuses on restoring funding for two key farm bill programs whose continued existence rests heavily on Senate Agriculture Committee deliberations next week over what direct funding items will and will not be included in the next farm bill.
These two programs addressed in the letter are the:
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provides grants to academic institutions and community based organizations to offer financial and credit training, mentoring, land-linking, and educational opportunities for new farmers. This program was first authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, but never received any funding until the last farm bill, when it was given $75 million in mandatory funding divided over a four year period. In the draft farm bill proposal prepared for the Super Committee last fall, annual program funding for this program was cut nearly in half — from $19 million to $10 million per year. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act introduced last fall calls for the new farm bill to fund the program at $25 million a year. The Senate Agriculture Committee will decide on a funding level next week when it marks up the 2012 Farm Bill.
- Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501) program, which provides grants to organizations and academic institutions who work directly with minority, limited resource, and tribal producers, as well as farmworkers. The grants are used to conduct outreach to these groups on federal agricultural programs and provide technical assistance that will assist farmers in owning and operating farms. This program was established in the 1990 Farm Bill, but suffered from meager appropriations until the 2008 Farm Bill provided it with $75 million in mandatory funding divided over a four year period. The draft farm bill from the fall included no funding for this program. The Senate Agriculture Committee will decide on a funding level for the next five years when it marks up the 2012 Farm Bill.
Both of these programs were provided mandatory farm bill dollars in the last farm bill, and moved together as a historic package of federal programs aimed specifically at providing the training, education, and technical assistance that new and historically underserved producers need to be successful in their farming careers. Both programs have proved to be tremendously successful and popular, and will need to be scaled up in order to meet the increased need for new farmers to step in and continue farming our land as the current generation of farmers starts eying retirement options.
“With an aging farm population and a large segment of existing producers at or beyond retirement age, it is paramount to invest in those new entrepreneurs that will farm and ranch our nation’s land in the future,” the letter reads. “It is also equally important to write a new farm bill that takes into account specific equity considerations by investing federal dollars into programs that support historically underserved groups and ensuring adequate access to federal training and technical assistance.”
This letter was delivered at a crucial time during the 2012 Farm Bill process with Senate committee action on the bill scheduled for next week. The letter serves as a reminder to Senate Agriculture Committee Members to make policy and funding decisions with a “commitment to all of our nation’s farmers.”
Sign on to Support Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers!
If your organization has not yet signed onto this letter, you can do so by following this link: http://bit.ly/BFRDP2501SignOn. We will be resubmitting this letter as the farm bill progresses in both the House and the Senate. If you’re an individual, you can sign on to endorse NSAC’s farm bill platform, Farming For the Future, by clicking here.