Beginning Farmers & Ranchers
The future health and vitality of agriculture, the food system, and rural communities depends on the successful entry of all who want to pursue a farming livelihood. Over the next two decades an estimated 400 million acres of U.S. agricultural land will be passed on to heirs or sold as farmers 65 and older retire (currently one-third of all farmland owners are retirement age). While there is a growing number of young people and new immigrants who want to enter into farming, they face a myriad of challenges such as the rising cost of farmland, a critical shortage of training, and lack of financing.
Fortunately, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) successfully established or expanded each of its program goals to advance opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers. As a result, the 2008 Farm Bill makes a greater investment in beginning farmers and ranchers than ever before, making it more likely that aspiring farmers will have the tools and financial resources they need to get a start on the land.
The new farm bill successes include expanded funding for:
- the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program which will provide grants to entities that offer training, mentoring, and land-link opportunities for new farmers.
The 2008 Farm Bill also:
- increases Direct and Guaranteed Loan Set-Asides for beginning farmers;
- raises the Direct Loan Limits for beginning farmers;
- vastly improves the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Down Payment Loan Program through lower interest rates and expanded farm sales price eligibility;
- expands the Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Contract Land Sales Program into a nationwide, permanent program to assist in the transfer of farms from retiring farmers to new farmers.
The new farm bill also establishes the:
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Pilot Program in 15 states which is designed to help beginning farmers and ranchers of limited means finance their agricultural endeavors through business and financial education and matched savings accounts.
Finally, on the conservation front, NSAC successfully won provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill that include:
- revised authority for Conservation Loans, with a special emphasis on beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers;
- a new land-purchase or land-lease transfer program, the CRP Transition Option for Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers; and
- Conservation Funding Set Asides and Payment Incentives for Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers to improve access and participation in conservation programs by beginning and socially disadvantage producers.
NSAC has already begun working on beginning farmer and rancher priorities in the upcoming farm bill, and have worked with hill champions to develop and introduce The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [HR 3236]. The legislation is a marker bill for the 2012 farm bill, and includes 23 proposals that cut across six different titles of the farm bill. NSAC will be working with our member organizations and allies on the hill to gain support for this critical piece of legislation which would break down significant barriers to entry for young and beginning farmers across the county.