On July 13, 2006, a number of farmers and organizations concerned about ushering in the next generation of farmers and ranchers met on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and their staff. They discussed a “New Farm Initiative” that focuses on beginning farmer and rancher issues for the new farm bill.
We believe the 2007 farm bill should include a major, cross-cutting new farm and ranch initiative that comprehensively addresses the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers. The New Farm Initiative should provide beginning farmers and ranchers the tools they need to be good stewards of land and water, be innovative and entrepreneurial, and respond to the rapidly changing demands of the marketplace.
Eight farmers participated, representing diverse agricultural regions. They came from California, Georgia, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania to share their stories and insights into how the farm bill can better serve beginning farmers and ranchers. Most were beginners who shared stories on how they have been able to start farming. Others were established farmers who are deeply concerned about getting the next generation started.
A farmer from Fountain, Minnesota, shared how the Farm Beginnings Program through the Land Stewardship Project – a mentoring, training, linking, and educational program taught by farmers (offered in Nebraska by the Center for Rural Affairs) – gave him the knowledge base to enter farming with controlled, rotational grazing. This program provided business planning, technical assistance, conservation planning, and more, allowing him to enter farming successfully. Brad is one of more than 260 people who have completed the Farm Beginnings Program, 60 percent of whom are farming today.
A farmer from Soledad, California, explained how California FarmLink’s Beginning Farmer Individual Development Account Program – a training program that encourages beginning farmers to save money that is then matched – enabled him to save enough money for a downpayment on a farm. This program provided him more than just a matched savings plan. It also provided lending training, business planning, and technical assistance for his farm operation. Miguel has successfully completed the program and is growing strawberries sold to local markets in California.
A cotton farmer from Donalsonville, Georgia, shared some of the enormous challenges he faces. Unlimited commodity program payments are threatening the ability of farmers like Stephen to remain in farming because of the impact they place on land values and cash rents. Stephen’s story relates how critical it is for the new farm bill to address this issue by effectively capping commodity program payments.
Two farmers from South Dakota discussed their concern about the ability of the next generation to be able to continue farming once they retire. They would like to see incentives that provide retiring farmers some protection when renting or selling land to a beginner.
The New Farm Initiative seeks to address the concerns raised by these farmers.
The initiative calls for:
>> Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program – The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), authorized in Section 7405 of the 2002 farm bill, is targeted to collaborative local, state, and regionally-based networks and partnerships to support training, mentoring, land linking, education, and planning activities to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. The program also has a separate section for developing beginning farmer and rancher related curricula. As part of the New Farm Initiative, the BFRDP should be reauthorized, amended to specifically address new immigrant farming concerns, and be granted significant annual mandatory farm bill funding.
>> Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts Pilot Program – The 2007 farm bill should establish a Beginning Farmer and Rancher IDA Pilot Program that uses special matched savings accounts to assist those of modest means to establish a pattern of savings and to promote a new generation of farmers and ranchers. The account proceeds could be used toward capital expenditures for a farm or ranch operation, including expenses associated with purchases of land, equipment, or livestock.
>> Stewardship Incentives for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers – The bill should strengthen existing authority (Sec. 2004(a) of the 2002 farm bill) to provide special incentives to beginning and limited resource producers to encourage their participation in conservation, to help get new farmers started, and to achieve long-lasting conservation improvements.
>> Transitioning the Beginning Farmer Land Contract Pilot Project into a permanent nationwide program – The 2002 farm bill established a Beginning Farmer Land Contract pilot program to allow USDA to provide loan guarantees to sellers who self-finance the sale of land to beginning farmers and ranchers. The pilot program is currently operating in Pa., Wis., Iowa, Ind., N.D., Minn., Neb., Ore., and Calif. As part of the New Farm and Ranch Initiative in the 2007 farm bill, the Land Contract pilot program should be made permanent and applied nationwide.
See a detailed draft of proposals in the New Farmer and Rancher Initiative
post questions or comments here or cotact John Crabtree, firstname.lastname@example.org
Center for Rural Affairs
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