October 29, 2015
On October 29, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced the launch of new commitments and a new website for new and aspiring farmers.
The new USDA goals focus on boosting funding for and participation in USDA programs and services that support new and beginning farmers, including prioritizing $5.6 billion within key USDA programs over the next two years. That investment goal is coupled with a target of increasing beginning farmer participation in key USDA programs by 6.6 percent.
USDA released specific target measures for identified programs, including farm loan programs, National Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMPP, LFPP), and crop insurance programs. A press release announcing USDA’s commitments noted that these programs were selected because they expand opportunity for new and beginning farmers through “starting or expanding an operation, developing new markets, supporting more effective farming and conservation practices, and having access to relevant training and education opportunities.”
NSAC has long advocated for USDA to set performance standards to measure progress, or lack thereof, in helping new farmers get started and beginning farmers build toward long-term viability. We couldn’t be more pleased, therefore, that performance targets are now being set, and will regularly be reported on, for eight key agricultural programs, with the possibility that more will be added later.
In the coming months, USDA has pledged to provide quarterly updates and we look forward to seeing progress in meeting these goals. More information on these investment targets, benchmarks and outcomes is available in this Beginning Farmer Commitment Factsheet.
In conjunction with the launch of these goals, USDA released a new and improved website, featuring special resources for farms in transition, women, youth, and veterans. The new site features advice and guidance on everything from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan, to filing taxes as a new small business owner. The website also includes the “Discovery Tool,” a personalized search tool that creates a customized list of USDA programs and resources based on questions related to location, operation type, operation model, and other criteria.
We are pleased that USDA has improved and streamlined the website, especially since the improvements were based on feedback from new and beginning farmers across the country. These changes will help to ensure information is available in a more accessible way for new farmers and those interested in getting started farming.
Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers
This sounds like a good start and would hope that the mega farms do not take them over.