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USDA Announces 2011 Beginning Farmer Awards and 2012 Request for Applications

September 30, 2011


National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
For Immediate Release
September 30, 2011

Contact: Ferd Hoefner, Juli Obudzinski, 202-547-5754

USDA Awards $18 Million to Support Beginning Farmers

Washington, D.C. September 30, 2011 Today, USDA announced $18 million in grants to beginning farmers and ranchers at a press conference held in Washington, D.C.  USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan highlighted these recent awards that were funded through the 2011 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), a competitive grants program administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  BFRDP was first authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, and over the past three years, has awarded over 100 grants to organizations that provide training and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan stressed the importance of BFRDP in supporting our nation’s beginning farmers, and spoke about the major challenges the country faces in transitioning our workforce to the next generation of people who will work the land.  Merrigan cited that the average age of farmers in the U.S. is between 57 and 59, and that the forthcoming census of agriculture being conducted next year, will likely show an increase from the 2007 Census.

“BFRDP is just the type of program we need to help beginning farmers succeed so they can create jobs and economic development in our rural communities,” said Adam Warthesen, a policy organizer with the Land Stewardship Project – a non-profit organization based in Minnesota and an NSAC member group – adding that the next slate of beginning farmer and rancher policies and initiatives are in the works, with the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 set for introduction in Congress next month.

“As we’ve seen with BFRDP, the demand is strong and the need is there for community based programs that support the next generation of farmers,” said Warthesen. “The Opportunity Act is a smart investment and important step toward creating, cost-effective initiatives that can help new agricultural producers.  It’s a jobs creator and momentum builder for the next Farm Bill and could not come at a better time.”

NSAC will be working with our allies to gain support for this bill in both houses of Congress, and work to incorporate its provisions in the upcoming Farm Bill.

2011 BFRDP Awards

For Fiscal Year 2011, BFRDP projects were awarded in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  Eight of the 36 grants announced were awarded to NSAC member organizations, totaling $4.8 million, and representing over a quarter of total program funding for 2011:

California FarmLink (CA) — This project will expand the nation’s first agricultural individual development account (IDA) program into 8 states through FarmLink’s partner organizations to assist beginning farms with building an asset and capital base.  FarmLink’s collaborators represent over 4,000 beginning farmers that are committed to farming as a profession, yet they lack the initial capital needed to purchase the assets required to run a successful agricultural operation.

Georgia Organics (GA) — The objective of this project is to help cultivate the next generation of organic and sustainable farmers and ranchers.  The expertise of experienced farmers will be passed on to those that are just starting out in farming, through a combination of mentoring, field days, conferences and workshops, and the development of multimedia resourcesincluding case studies, podcasts, and videos.  This project will provide innovative and meaningful education and resources related to production and management strategies; business operations; decision assessment; and marketing support, to enable beginning agriculturalists to thrive and prosper in their profession.

GrassWorks, Inc. (WI) — The GrassWorks apprenticeship program provides comprehensive training for beginning dairy farmers in Wisconsin to go from novice to successful independent operator.  In addition, it provides support  for established farmers that want  to grow the grass-based dairy industry, implement managed grazing, and transfer their land to the next generation of dairy graziers.

Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture (OK) — This project will assist beginning farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma in developing agricultural enterprises that allow them to be good stewards of their land, operate financially viable farms and produce local food for underserved communities.  The project will include an in-depth, year long training course that will provide new farmers with the skills and knowledge to begin their operations, along with  follow-up mentoring that will provide one on one assistance as beginners put their plans into practice.  Over 50% of the project’s budget will be dedicated to address the needs of socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (WI) — The “Organic and Sustainable Experiential Learning for Beginning Farmers”  project will provide a new level of experiential education, training and support to increase the adoption of organic and sustainable farming practices, especially among beginning and young farmers.  The program will implement an innovative blend of initiatives to promote learning and communication opportunities including the expansion of the Organic University, the Organic Farming Conference programming, and social networking for beginning farmer relationship building.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NJ) — There are currently no beginning farmer programs in the Garden State, yet there is an ever-increasing demand for local, organic produce and an ample amount of preserved farmland.  This program will empower New Jersey’s new small scale farmers through technical training courses, internship and apprenticeship programs, an incubator farm, and the development of land leases and contracts that can be used by beginning farmers to gain access to land.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NY) — The “Cultivating the Next Crop of Organic Farmers” project will support the next cadre of beginning farmers in every Northeast state by strengthening the support they receive from seven regional organic and sustainable farming organizations.  The project’s goals include providing a formal apprenticeship and mentoring program, as well as shared learning opportunities such as on-farm workshops, webinars, and conferences to build a strong and supportive generation of new farmers.

Stone Barns Center for Food And Agriculture (NY) — Stone Barns is a working farm and education center that addresses the critical need to train young farmers in the Northeast.  This award will be used to grow and improve their program that provides workshops, conferences, apprenticeships, on-line resources and mentoring services geared towards the needs of beginning farmers.  The project will provide intensive hands-on training for more than 1,200 farmers by 2014 to ensure a better-equipped corps of regional farmers that will be able to supply the region with healthful food.

2012 Request for Applications

Earlier this month, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) also released the Request for Applications (RFA) for the next round of BFRDP funding for Fiscal Year 2012.  Approximately $19 million will be made available for projects next year.

This will be the last round of mandatory funding for BFRDP authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill, and the program will require reauthorization and a dedication of funding in the next Farm Bill.  NSAC will be pushing hard to reauthorize this program in the coming Farm Bill, and will advocate for increased mandatory funding in order to meet the incredible demand for the program.

BFRDP grant projects address five major priority areas that provide technical and financial assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers, and include:

  1. Production and management strategies to enhance land stewardship by beginning farmers and ranchers
  2. Business management and decision support strategies that enhance the financial viability of beginning farmers and ranchers
  3. Marketing strategies that enhance the competitiveness of beginning farmers and ranchers
  4. Legal strategies that assist beginning farmers with farm or land acquisition and transfer
  5. Other Priority Topics to enhance competitiveness and sustainability of beginning farmers and ranchers for the next generation

Additionally, grants may be awarded for educational enhancement team projects that assemble a team of experts to review beginning farmer and rancher curriculum and programs, identify gaps, and develop and disseminate recommendations and materials to address these gaps.

Click here for a complete listing of 2011, 2010, and 2009 BFRDP grantees and project descriptions.

For more information, see our Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill and the BFRDP website.

For USDA’s press release of the awards announcement, click here.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Farm Bill, General Interest, Grants and Programs, Press Releases, Research, Education & Extension


One response to “USDA Announces 2011 Beginning Farmer Awards and 2012 Request for Applications”

  1. […] in 2011, as part of the $18 million awarded by the USDA for its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), only one major project was […]

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