February 17, 2012
Yesterday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the launch of an online tool to support beginning farmers and ranchers. Start2Farm.gov, a collaboration between USDA’s National Library and the American Farm Bureau Federation, provides information on funding, training, networking, and legal and technical assistance. The site also chronicles beginning farmer and rancher success stories.
Congress has defined beginning farmers and ranchers in part as those with less than 10 years farm experience; currently 20% of the 2.1 million American farms are run by such individuals, most of whom are over 35 years of age. The majority of such farmers lack access to the necessary education, experience, resources, and/or land to successfully establish farms or ranches.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), funded under the 2008 Farm Bill for $75 million through FY2012, not only encourages education, outreach, and mentoring through grants, but also dictates USDA establish an online clearinghouse for curricula and resources.
“America’s farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation’s economy, producing the food, feed, fiber and fuel that continue to help us grow,” said Secretary Vilsack. “USDA is working to provide opportunities for the next generation to get into agriculture in order to continue the record success of America’s farmers and ranchers who are seeing record farm incomes and record exports. Start2Farm.gov will help us protect and sustain these successes, so that we continue to build an agriculture industry diverse and successful enough to attract the smartest, hardest-working young people in the nation.”
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, a bill aimed at inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill, would revise and extend current farm bill provisions. This Act would renew funding for the BFRDP, as well as enable access to land, credit, and crop insurance and assist new producers with land stewardship and value-added business assistance.