Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program


Training new farmers and helping them start successful farm businesses

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers. BFRDP provides farmers with the technical production and business skills they need to start successful farm operations through hands-on training projects. For over a decade, this highly successful initiative has provided competitively awarded grants to community organizations, state extension services, academic institutions, and producer groups to support and train new farmers and ranchers across the country. Once projects are funded and established, aspiring and/or beginning farmers and ranchers can then contact the project directly to find out how they might participate.

Learn More About BFRDP:

Program Basics

BFRDP is a competitive grant program administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) that funds education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives directed at helping beginning farmers and ranchers of all types.

The program is targeted especially to collaborative local, state, and regional networks and partnerships. It supports financial and entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and apprenticeship programs; “land link” programs that connect retiring farmers and landowners with new farmers; vocational training and agricultural rehabilitation programs for veterans; and education, outreach, and curriculum development activities to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. Topics may also include: production practices, conservation planning, risk management education, diversification and marketing strategies, food safety and recordkeeping, credit management, and farm safety training.

Grants have a term of 3 years and cannot exceed award amounts of $200,000 per year. For single year grants that are less than $50,000, USDA offers a simplified application process. No-cost extensions are not allowed for 3 year grants. Grant types include Standard, Education Team, and Clearinghouse grants.  See RFA details for more information on each grant type as they vary from year to year.

Eligible recipients can receive consecutive grants and must provide a cash or in-kind contribution match equal to 25 percent of the grant funds provided. A waiver for the matching funds requirement can be requested if the project targets an underserved area or population.

Projects targeted at non-beginning farmers (e.g., retiring farmers, non-farming landowners) may be accepted, provided that the primary purpose of the project is fostering opportunities for new farmers – which USDA defines as someone who has been farming for less than ten years. Applicants are required to demonstrate that farmers are involved in the design and implementation of proposed projects.

Eligibility

Applicants for BFRDP must be collaborative state, tribal, local, or regionally based networks or partnerships of public and private groups. Networks or partnerships may include: community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, school-based educational organizations, cooperative extension, relevant USDA, state, municipal and tribal agencies, and community colleges.

BFRDP sets aside 5 percent of annual funds for projects serving primarily limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, including minority, immigrant, and women farmers and ranchers, as well as farmworkers desiring to become farmers in their own right. There is an additional 5 percent set aside for projects serving primarily military veteran farmers and ranchers.

The organization or institution awarded the BFRDP grant is responsible for determining the eligibility of individual participants in the project.

The Program in Action

For over ten years, BFRDP projects have made real, positive impacts in the lives of beginning farmers and food producing communities. A recent evaluation of the program showed that BFRDP is helping to grow the next generation of farmers by building a national infrastructure, new models, and best practices for training. Over the program’s lifetime, BFRDP has invested roughly $162 million in developing and strengthening innovative new farmer training programs and resources across the country. To date, BFRDP has funded 327 projects in nearly all 50 states. For more information on funded projects, check out the BFRDP Clearinghouse administered by the University of Minnesota

Select project highlights include:

  • In California, BFRDP has helped develop several organic incubator farms that will generate entrepreneurial opportunities for farm workers and limited resource farmers in the Salinas Valley.
  • In Iowa, BFRDP supports farm transition planning courses aimed at women landowners and farmers – women farmers and landowners own nearly half of all farmland in the United States today.
  • In Minnesota, BFRDP funding has allowed a community-based, farm-membership organization to expand a new farmer training curriculum collaborative, which has now been adopted in 12 states across the country.
  • In Michigan, BFRDP is helping establish local and regional networks of new and established farmers that provide mentoring opportunities and facilitate knowledge transfer between one generation of producers and the next.
  • In Maine, BFRDP funding is helping an established new farmer training and mentorship program to expand in order to meet the growing demand for organic and sustainably produced food throughout the state.
  • In Wyoming, BFRDP is targeting beginning ranchers with classroom and hands-on applied learning on-ranch training course to improve management and financial skills and work with and learn from established ranchers.

To learn more about how BFRDP has helped bring up new farmers:

How to Apply and Program Resources

Each year, NIFA releases a Request for Applications (RFA) and solicits grant proposals from organizations that are in the process of establishing and expanding beginning farmer training programs and resources. The RFA is typically released sometime in the fall and posted on the NIFA BFRDP home page. Applicants are typically given 60 days to complete their application and submit it to Grants.gov. Applications are then evaluated by a peer review panel, which consists of farmers, extension professionals, and beginning farmer educators. Farmers are encouraged to participate in the peer review process, and more information can be obtained by contacting the National Program Leader listed as the primary contact in the RFA.

Additional Resources:

BFRDP Progress Reports:

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

BFRDP was first authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, but did not receive any funding until the 2008 Farm Bill – which provided roughly $19 million per year in direct mandatory funding. The program did not receive any funding in 2013, due to the lapse in passing a new farm bill on time. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized BFRDP and provided an additional $100 million in mandatory funding, or $20 million per year, through Fiscal Year 2018. Additionally, the 2014 Farm Bill expanded BFRDP to include a priority on veterans, and decreased the set-aside for socially disadvantaged farmers and farmworkers from 25 to 5 percent.

The 2018 Farm Bill created the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program by merging BFRDP with the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the Section 2501 Program). FOTO is a new umbrella program designed to coordinate USDA training and outreach to beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers. The new farm bill also established permanent funding for BFRDP through FOTO, authorized a waiver to the matching grants requirements, and created a new streamlined application for grants under $50,000.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Funding

Fiscal Year Total Funding Available (in millions)
2019 $15
2020 $15
2021 $17.5
2022 $20
2023 $25
5 yr total $92.5
10 yr total $217.5

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2018 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that either caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill, or provide additional discretionary funding. In addition, BFRDP is subject to automatic cuts as part of an annual sequestration process established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

For the most current information on program funding levels, please see NSAC’s Annual Appropriations Chart.

Authorizing Language

Section 12301 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 amends Section 7405 of the Food Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 and Section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 2279(d).


This page last updated in April 2019.