Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

Important Update:

Please note that the Grassroots Guide has not yet been updated to reflect changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed and signed into law in December 2018. We are in the process of updating the Guide and expect to publish an updated version in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, please use this guide for basic information about programs and important resources and links for more information, but check with USDA for any relevant program changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. Also, check out our blog series covering highlights from the new farm bill. 

Training new farmers and helping them start successful farm businesses

Training for new farmers is absolutely essential to ensure they have the technical production skills and business savvy to start a successful farm operation. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers. This highly successful initiative provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers across the country. Once projects are funded and established, beginning farmers and ranchers, or would-be new farmers, can then contact the project or projects in their area 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.

BFRDP 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, credit management, and farm safety training.

BFRDP grants have a term of 3 years and cannot exceed $200,000 per 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. Projects can serve some farmers who are not beginning farmers, provided that the primary purpose of the project is fostering beginning farmer opportunities – which USDA defines as someone who has been farming for less than ten years. 


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 and state 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.

Eligibility for individual farmers or would-be farmers to participate in a particular funded project is determined by the organization or institution that receives the grant.

The Program in Action

BFRDP has been around for nearly a decade and farming communities around the country are seeing real impacts on the ground. A recent evaluation of BFRDP showed that program funding is helping to grow the next generation of farmers while also building a national infrastructure, new models, and best practices for training new farmers. Over the past nine years, BFRDP has invested nearly $145 million to develop and strengthen innovative new farmer training programs and resources across the country and has funded 291 projects in nearly all 50 states.

A few program highlights include the following projects:

  • In California, BFRDP is helping develop several organic incubator farms that will help 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 who own nearly half of the 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.

Read more about how BFRDP has helped grow 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 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 (passed in February 2014) reauthorized BFRDP and provided an additional $100 million in mandatory funding, or $20 million per year, through Fiscal Year 2018.  Additionally, the new farm bill expands the programs to include a priority on veterans and decreases the set-aside to socially disadvantaged farmers and farmworkers from 25 to 5 percent.

BFRDP’s funding and authorization expire on September 30, 2018 and will need to be reauthorized and provided additional funding in the 2018 Farm Bill to continue to offer grants in future years.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Funding

Fiscal Year Total Funding Available (in millions)
2014 $20
2015 $20
2016 $20
2017 $20
2018 $20
5 yr total $100
10 yr total $100

Please note: The funding levels in the chart above show the amount of mandatory funding reserved by the 2014 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 Committees decide to raid the farm bill to fund other programs under its jurisdiction. 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 7409 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 7405 of the Food Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. Section 3319f.

This page last updated in November 2017.