Beginning Farmer Development Program

Program Basics

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is a competitive grant program administered by the 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.

While the BFRDP was first authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, it never received funding during the annual appropriations process.  With the 2008 Farm Bill, the BFRDP now has mandatory funding to operate as an annual competitive grant program.  However, program funding expired on October 1st, 2012, and must be reauthorized in the next farm bill for the program to continue.

The BFRDP is targeted especially to collaborative local, state, and regionally based networks and partnerships to support financial and entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and apprenticeship programs, as well as “land link” programs that connect retiring with new farmers, innovative farm transfer and transition practices, 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, environmental compliance, credit management, and so on.

Applicants for the 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; cooperative extension; relevant USDA and state agencies; and community colleges.  These networks or partnerships in turn use the BFRDP funding to provide the training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The BFRDP sets aside 25 percent of the yearly funds for projects serving 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.

BFRDP grants have a term of 3 years and cannot exceed $250,000 a year.  Eligible recipients can receive consecutive grants and must provide a cash or in-kind contribution match that is equal to 25 percent of the grant funds provided.  Projects funded can serve farmers who are not beginning farmers, provided that the primary purpose of the project is fostering beginning farmer opportunities.

2008 Farm Bill Changes

The 2008 Farm Bill provides the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program with first-time mandatory funding of $75 million, with an additional $30 million a year authorized for appropriations.  The 2008 Farm Bill also makes the following changes:

  • Evaluation criteria for grants made under BFRDP are now specified as including: relevancy; technical merit; achievability; the expertise and track record of 1 or more applicants; the adequacy of plans for a participatory evaluation process; outcome-based reporting; and communicating findings and results beyond the target audience.
  • The Secretary of Agriculture is encouraged to ensure that BFRDP grant recipients are geographically diverse. Priority for making grants is now given to partnerships and collaborations that are led by or include non-governmental and community-based organizations with expertise in new agricultural producer training and outreach.

The Statement of the Managers in the Farm Bill Conference Report encourages USDA to include asset-based farming opportunity strategies within BFRDP funding.  It also encourages NIFA to appoint project review panels that include individuals with expertise in delivering beginning farmer and rancher programs.

Section 7410 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008 amends Section 7405 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2000, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 3319f.


The 2008 Farm Bill authorizes $75 million in mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, allocated in the following way:

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) Funding











The farm bill also provides an authorization for up to an additional $30 million a year for the program, over and above the mandatory funding, should Congress decide at some point that the program requires additional resources and votes to provide those resources through the annual agriculture appropriations bill.  To date, the program has never received funding through annual appropriations, and thus, has relied solely on the mandatory funding provided in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2008 Farm Bill for this program to be provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.  However, Congress does at times pass subsequent appropriations legislation that caps the funding level for a particular year for a particular program at less than provided by the farm bill in order to use the resulting savings to fund a different program.  Therefore, despite its “mandatory” status, the funding level for a given year could be less than the farm bill dictates should the Appropriations Committee decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction.

Implementation Basics

As an annual competitive grants program, a Request for Applications (RFA) is issued each year for the BFRDP by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Federal Register.  The RFA contains guidelines for how the program will be administered and grants awarded.  Release of future RFA’s depend upon reauthorization of the 2008 Farm Bill, which expired on October 1st, 2012.

For an example document that demonstrates how to describe your cash or in-kind matching funds within your application, click here.

For application deadlines for BFRDP and links to the most current RFA, please go to:

For examples of funded projects, see or read about previous awards from 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2012.

Additional Resources

BFRDP Program Website