Partially due to the increased attention by the American public on locally grown food and where their food comes from, in the past couple of years American agriculture has experienced a renewed interest by young people — many of who don’t hail from established farming families. FFA participation has spiked around the country, universities have started new courses geared toward beginning farmers – for example, OSU’s Growing Farms Workshop Series – and new government programs target this expanding demographic.
Acknowledging this trend, American Farm Bureau was instrumental in the development of a new, valuable resource for beginning farmers and ranchers: Start2farm.gov.
This online portal includes links to training, financing, technical assistance, and other support services specifically for first-time agriculturalists. The site also features include a “Thinking about farming?” tutorial, an event calendar, and case studies about young people who have successfully launched a career in agriculture.
AFBF also hosted the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Conference, in conjunction with the national Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference, which this year was held in Grand Rapids, Mich. Another great resource is AFBF’s Rural Community Building Blog at ruralcommunitybuilding.fb.org.
More resources for young farmers
A recent entry on the blog noted that the USDA announced the launch of the Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Land Contract Guarantee Program.
The program is administered by the Farm Service Agency and is designed to help new farmers buy land by providing sellers a federal guarantee on land contract sales of up to $500,000. In this way, it shields sellers from the risk of buyer default and encourages them to enter into such agreements with new and disadvantaged farmers. More information is available from local FSA offices.
To help raise a new generation of leaders for American agriculture, USDA provides affordable credit, including loans under the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, and Youth Loans via Extension and 4-H offices. In just the past two years, more than 40% of all FSA’s farm loans went to beginning farmers and ranchers.
The Conservation Reserve Transition Incentives Program encourages retiring or retired farmers to sell or lease expiring CRP lands to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. It facilitates the transition of expiring CRP land to beginning or socially disadvantaged producers to help them begin farming or to expand their operations in a sustainable manner by providing incentives to retiring or retired owners and operators
The U.S. Risk Management Agency supports crop insurance education and outreach to beginning, small, and historically underserved farmers and ranchers. In the past few years, the number of people reached by this program has grown 6% to 10% each year.
And for a variety of succession planning tools, visit Legacy by Design’s website.
“Beginning farmers,” by USDA definition, are those operated by individuals with 10 years or less experience operating farms. About 20% of the 2.1 million U.S. farms are classified as beginning farms.
Not surprisingly, the two most common and important challenges faced by beginning farmers are (1) having the market opportunity to buy or rent suitable land and (2) having capital to acquire land of a large enough scale to be profitable, according to USDA.