2009 Beginning Farmer Grants

For Immediate Release:
November 3, 2009

Aimee Witteman, 202-547-5754

USDA Announces $17 Million in Awards for Beginning Farmer and Rancher Training and Mentoring Programs

Washington, D.C. November, 2009 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the recipients of the 2009 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program awards totaling $17 million.  The announcement was made by Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan on a farm in southeastern Minnesota operated by Eric and Lisa Klein, farmer members of the Land Stewardship Project, a NSAC member organization that is one of the BFRDP grant recipients.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is a competitive grants program administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (formerly known as the Cooperative State Education and Extension Service – CSREES) at the USDA.  BFRDP grants are awarded to local, state, and regionally based networks and partnerships to support financial and entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and apprenticeships for beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as “land link” programs that connect retiring with new farmers and innovative farm transfer and transition practices.  BFRDP grants have a term of 3 years and cannot exceed $250,000 a year.

The BFRDP was first authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, but it never received funding during the annual appropriations process.  In the 2008 Farm Bill, BFRDP was reauthorized and now has $75 million in mandatory funding over the next five years.  25 percent of the yearly BFRDP funds are set aside for projects serving limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, including minority, immigrant, and women farmers and ranchers, and farmworkers.

“We have been waiting for this moment for some time and are very excited that the USDA is finally able to award grants to programs aimed at helping the next generation of producers get a start on the land,” said Aimee Witteman, Executive Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “By providing tools and assistance such as training in business planning and linking new farmers with land, programs funded by the BFRDP promise to help new farmers and ranchers become economically viable land stewards.”

The face of farming and ranching is changing.  In 1978, the average age of a U.S. farmer was 50 years old.  Today the average age is 57 years old.  Today there are five times as many operators 75 years and older than operators under the age of 25.  At the same, however, there is a growing movement of people seeking a start in agriculture, a movement that includes large numbers of immigrant and women farmers.  With an estimated 400 million acres of agricultural land transferring to new owners over the next two decades, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and others believe now is the time to encourage the next crop of farmers and ranchers.

“We were excited to host Deputy Secretary Merrigan on a LSP farm today for the announcement of this new program to help beginning farmers,” says Adam Warthesen, Policy Organizer with the Land Stewardship Project.  “Clearly this is a first step in the right direction and we look forward to continuing to help USDA ensure that community-based organizations that work directly with new farmers receive support.”

Among the 29 2009 BFRDP grant recipients are several NSAC member organizations:

Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), Salinas, California – awarded $515,862 over three years to build upon their outreach programs that provide educational training on organic farm production, marketing, recordkeeping, pest management and whole farm planning for farm workers and aspiring farmers who want to operate their own small farm business.

California FarmLink, Sebastopol, California – awarded $525,000 over three years to build on California FarmLink’s ten years of experience facilitating farm transitions, providing technical assistance, hosting workshops, financing farm operations, and empowering farmers to build  assets through California Farmlink’s Individual Development Account program.

Land Stewardship Project, Minneapolis, Minnesota – awarded $413,820 over three years for “Collaborative Alliance of Farm Beginnings Programs – Planning and Supporting Farmer to Farmer Education in Sustainable Agriculture to work with partner organizations that are offering Land Stewardship Project trademarked “Farm Beginnings” program around the country.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), Spring Valley, Wisconsin – awarded $151,515 over three years for “Developing Farm Financial Knowledge of Beginning Organic and Sustainable Farmers” to produce a book, workshops, and a two-day mini conference for beginning farmers on farm financial management so they can utilize simple tools and resources to assess their financial situation.

For a complete list of grantees, please see the Press Release from USDA.

For further information about the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, see the NSAC Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill and the USDA homepage for the BFRDP.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural and urban food systems and communities.