March 12, 2010
Last week’s Drake Forum on America’s New Farmers addressed a myriad of opportunities and challenges that face the new generation of farmers and ranchers: big, small, and mid-sized, urban and rural, all across the country. In particular, access to land, access to capital, new market development, and education and training, particularly financial education, surfaced again and again in panel discussions.
While grassroots organizations across the country have been working for years to address these issues on the ground, the conference recognized the need for a concerted effort at the national level to shape programs and policies that will foster a vibrant, diverse, population of farmers and ranchers to feed the country over the next 50 years.
The conversation could be considered a first step towards developing a comprehensive Beginning Farmer Bill in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill. But NSAC and its member groups also reminded participants of the opportunity for more immediate action, in particular, to support the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (BFRIDA) Program. The BFRIDA Program would provide business education and matched savings accounts to beginning farmers of modest means. Created in the 2008 Farm Bill as a pilot program but never funded, BFRIDA has the potential to create thousands of new farm businesses.
What you can do to support IDAs
Call your Representatives and Senators today and urge them to ask for $5 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account program for Fiscal Year 2011. To find your Congressperson’s information, click here, enter your zip code, then click on your representative. Click on the tab for “contact.” When you reach the office, ask for the legislative aide that works on agriculture issues.
The Message is Simple: I am a constituent and am calling to urge Senator/Representative _________ to support funding of $5 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Program. BFRIDA will spark the creation of thousands of new farm businesses which translates into more jobs.
Report Your Call: Please take a moment to tell us a little about the results of your call. It is helpful for us to know if you are getting through to your legislator and how they are responding to your call. Click here to let us know how it went.
John Tecklin and Angie Tomey are heading into their 13th year of operation at Mountain Bounty Farm. Located high on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, their 300-member CSA produces a wide range of fruits and vegetables in an otherwise underserved, difficult to farm region.
John graduated from California FarmLink’s 2-year IDA program in 2008, with $9,600 to put toward a down payment on land. He explains that access to capital is the single biggest challenge for beginning farmers, and that IDA programs are valuable tools for addressing this problem while teaching important savings habits.
“The cash-flow planning training that FarmLink required was another important nudge along the way to professionalism,” John adds, emphasizing that he now has a much more sophisticated operation and carefully manages his finances.
Ultimately, John exclaims “Full-steam ahead!” when asked what he thinks about the BFRIDA program. His own IDA experience allowed him to purchase ten acres of land, ramp up production, and leverage a 5-year automatic renewal lease on a neighboring parcel—important steps that led to greater security, and allowed John and Angie to hire more seasonal staff to manage their thriving business.