April 16, 2014
Last week, USDA announced the availability of $19 million in funding for beginning farmer training grants through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). This highly successful initiative, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and non-profit and community-based organizations to support and train new producers across the country.
BFRDP is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Although the program has only been around for a few years, farming communities around the country are already seeing real impacts on the ground. For example, since 2009, BFRDP funding has been used to:
How BFRDP Grows New Farmers
New farmers that are entering agriculture today have different needs and face new challenges compared with farmers who started farming decades ago and are now facing retirement. Beginning farmers are younger on average, and less likely to farm full-time than more established farmers. They also tend to operate smaller farms, have more diversified operations, and an increasing number come from non-farm backgrounds with little access to farmland, which has traditionally been passed down from generation to generation.
BFRDP addresses the barriers new farmers face — like access to credit and affordable farmland — by supporting increased technical assistance, innovative farm training and mentoring programs, and land-linking resources to help ensure the success of the next generation of farmers, a generation that faces unprecedented challenges when pursuing a career in agriculture.
Program History and Impact
Since the program’s launch in 2009, BFRDP has invested over $70 million to develop and strengthen innovative new farmer training programs and resources across the country, and has funded 145 projects in 46 states. BFRDP was authorized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, but did not receive funding until the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill. The new 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized renewed funding for the program, providing $100 million over the next five years. The program was originally conceptualized by NSAC, which has championed it since the beginning.
It’s been two and half years since the last Request for Applications (RFA) was published for the 2011 Fiscal Year (FY). The program has been stranded without funding since October 2012 when the 2008 Farm Bill expired, and USDA could not issue an RFA or make any new grants last year. Due to this lapse in funding for 2013, we are expecting to see an increase in demand for program funds with this year’s RFA, and expect this funding round to be especially competitive.
The FY 2014 BFRDP RFA announced last week includes several changes to reflect new provisions adopted in the 2014 Farm Bill.
There will be a new focus on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for military veterans who wish to pursue a career in farming, including a dedicated funding stream for projects serving military veterans. There have been a few projects funded through BFRDP in recent years which have specifically focused on training programs tailored to meet the needs of returning veterans, but the new farm bill formally makes this component part of the program and requires NIFA to dedicate five percent of total program funds (roughly $1 million each year) to support these projects in the years to come.
The program maintains a dedicated set-aside of funds for projects that benefit limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as well as farmworkers desiring to become farmers, however the new farm bill decreases this set-aside from 25 to five percent of total program funds (or roughly $1 million each year). Over the course of the program’s history, more and more qualified proposals have been funded which include these historically underserved farmers as program participants, and NSAC will be urging NIFA to maintain this priority in future years.
The 2014 RFA also streamlines the grant procedures for project administrative expenses by clarifying that grant recipients cannot use more than ten percent of total grant funds for indirect costs, including overhead and other administrative expenses that do not directly benefit the proposed project. This change will simplify the process of calculating what percentage of project expenses can be spent on indirect costs for non-profit and community based organizations.
Additionally, projects led by school-based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in agricultural production and outreach will be explicitly eligible for priority funding under the new RFA. Examples of these types of organizations include FFA and the National Young Farmers Educational Association. NSAC is pleased that the program retains a strong focus on partnerships with community-based organizations, consistent with previous RFAs and a core element of the program’s success over the years.
Application Deadline and USDA Webinars
Applications are due June 12th, and awards are likely to be announced later this year.
NIFA is hosting two webinars for interested applicants on April 30 and May 6 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. The first webinar will focus on general guidelines for the program, while the second webinar will focus on the funding allocations for socially-disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers.
NSAC is excited to see this program up and running again, especially in light of the new Census figures which continue to show the aging of our farm population and a decrease in the number of farmers entering agriculture. This important resource has helped thousands of farmers start their careers in farming throughout the country, and will be a crucial piece in growing the next generation of farmers in the years to come.
For more information, click here to read USDA’s press release.
Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers