December 7, 2021
Organizations working with and training beginning farmers provide much-needed education, training, and technical assistance to support the success of new farmers in agriculture. In October 2021, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for 140 organizations and institutions that teach and train beginning farmers and ranchers. This investment is a result of new funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.
For over a decade, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) has served as the only federal program dedicated to training the next generation of farmers. BFRDP is a grant program administered by USDA that is central to reducing barriers to entry by funding new farmer training programs and projects across the country. Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique circumstances and challenges to establish themselves in the industry – challenges that have increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A large investment for BFRDP, the result of recent legislation passed as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, means that more programs can be funded to serve more farmers. The additional funds were specifically provided for new and beginning farmers in addition to the funding Congress already provided in the Farm Bill – $17.5 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 and $20 million for FY 2022. Investment from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of brought the total for FY 2021 to over $50,026,684 to fund 85 new projects and 55 continuation projects.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauds all the organizations awarded grants for the critical work they do to support next-generation farmers and ranchers, especially those farmer and community-based organizations who work directly with beginning farmers and ranchers every day. Several NSAC members were among the grantees including Kansas Rural Center, National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Land for Good, Georgia Organics, and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. About 69 percent of this year’s awards went to nonprofits or community-based organizations, and 37 percent of projects focused on providing education and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers.
Preparing A Resilient Future: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Training for Organic Field Crop and Livestock Producers in The Northern Great Plains – NCAT ($599,740)
NCAT will partner with the Montana Organic Association (MOA) to educate and support beginning farmers and ranchers seeking to explore organic field crop farming in the Northern Great Plains (NGP). The project will work with over 300 beginning farmers and ranchers, including military veterans, limited-resource, tribal, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and provide intensive training through two “Organic Academy Road Show” (OARS) day sessions. This project will include not only farmer and rancher education but additional efforts to inform the wider agriculture community in which the beginning farmer trainees live. In addition, they will conduct economic analyses including a comparative empirical comparison of organic and non-organic profitability based on USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data. The project will also explore regional differences in the use of federally subsidized revenue protection crop insurance by organic and non-organic crop farmers to understand the relative risk and risk protection in organic and non-organic farming, along with a comparative regional organic and non-organic field crop farmer survey and a series of focus groups to further understanding of economic and non-economic barriers to organic production system maintenance and adoption.
Land For Farmers: Training and Technical Assistance to Achieve Farmland Access for Beginning Farmers Across New England – Land For Good ($749,856)
This project helps beginning farmers and ranchers in New England gain, knowledge and skills, and improve their ability to successfully access land by purchase or secure tenure agreements, Specifically, this project aims to increase the number of new land opportunity postings by 25% each year, train 600 beginning farmers to make informed land access decisions, support 60 senior generation farmers on farm succession planning to increase farmland access opportunities for beginning farmers, and increase the number of socially disadvantaged beginning farmers who access land in southern New England, among others.
Building Place-Based Mentorships for Beginning Grain Farmers, With Special Supports for Beginning Women Farmers – Michael Fields Agriculture Institute ($746,424)
In collaboration with other NGO farmer-support organizations and UW-Madison Extension’s OGRAIN program, this project will develop a farmer mentorship program specifically for beginning food-grade grain farmers by recruiting beginning farmers and experienced grain farmer mentors. This includes special topic workshops, field days, seminars, and special conference sessions, some for women farmers only. The mentorship program will address basic farming practices; entrepreneurship and business training; diversification and marketing strategies; and mentoring, apprenticeships, and internships.
Sustaining Rural Communities Through Beginning Farmer Mentorship, Training and Marketing – Rural Coalition ($600,000)
Focusing on two historic African American farming regions in Alabama and South Carolina, this project will support New Entry Farmers to improve their economic success and the sustainability of agriculture and the food system. Collaborating with the Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund (working with African American Young Farmers groups in three counties in South Carolina) and Cottage House Inc., the aim is to expand and sustain the economic success and sustainability of New Entry African American and other socially disadvantaged beginning farmers in South Carolina, Alabama, and beyond. The project will also: improve access to fresh food in their historical African American communities and other communities; increase both respect for and capacity within the target population with regard to agriculture as a career option; strengthen the infrastructure to help New Entry Farmers succeed; and improve food security within the low-income communities where they work.
See here for the full listing of awarded FY 2021 projects.
BFRDP is a competitive grant program that provides funding for educational, training, and technical assistance programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers across the United States and US territories. For over a decade, this program has helped aspiring producers launch careers in agriculture and has helped beginning producers maintain and grow successful farm and ranch businesses. Grants issued by BFRDP support projects that address a variety of topics, including livestock and crop farming practices; land transfer strategies; business, financial, and risk management training; curriculum development; mentoring and apprenticeships; agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training for veterans; and farm safety.
The 2018 Farm Bill provided incremental increases in available funding for the program. $17.5 million was available for FY 2021, and FY 2022 and 2023 will see $20 million and $25 million respectively, shattering the previous historic funding levels. This year up to $750,000 is available for projects. These projects aim to identify gaps in beginning farmer and rancher training by evaluating all existing programs and aim to develop and conduct train-the-trainer projects to address these gaps.
In addition to Standard projects, which focus on new and established local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives, and Educational Team projects, that develop seamless beginning farmer and rancher education programs by conducting evaluation, coordination, and enhancement activities, the FY 2021 BFRDP also funded Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse projects to make educational curricula and training materials available to beginning farmers and ranchers and organizations who directly serve them.
NSAC and our allies worked tirelessly for this increase in mandatory funding especially given how few applicants received such grants in years past. The next generation of farmers have a profound need for these projects in order to have a chance at feeding their neighbors and country. Increased support for beginning farmers and ranchers – especially those who are considered socially disadvantaged producers – is more necessary now than ever with the economic and health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a summary of recently funded projects and funding trends, check out our previous blog post.