NSAC's Blog

Release: Funding Restored For Beginning Farmer Training Programs

April 11, 2014


Contact: Juli Obudzinski, Senior Policy Specialist, 202-547-5754

Funding Restored For Beginning Farmer Training Programs

April 11, 2014, Washington, DC – Today USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack 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, provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community 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,” says Juli Obudzinski, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “Although the program has only been around for a few years, young farming communities around the country are already seeing real impacts on the ground.”

Since 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 and was provided farm bill funding starting with the 2008 Farm Bill.  The new 2014 Farm Bill has 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.

“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.” Obudzinski continues.  “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.

It’s been two and half years since the last Request for Applications (RFA) was published for the 2011 Fiscal Year.  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.

“We’re 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.” Obudzinski continues. “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.”

The FY2014 Request for Applications announced today includes several changes to reflect new provisions adopted in the 2014 Farm Bill.  Among those changes are:

  • a new focus on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for veterans who wish to pursue a career in farming;
  • a dedicated funding stream for projects serving military veterans;
  • streamlining of grant procedures for project administrative expenses; and
  • the inclusion of projects led by school based agricultural educational organizations with expertise in agricultural production and outreach.

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.   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.

For more information, click here to read USDA’s press release.

Categories: Press Releases

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