What is in this article?:
- The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [H.R. 3236] addresses many of the barriers that new agriculture entrepreneurs face such as limited access to land and markets, hyper land price inflation, high input costs, and a lack of sufficient support networks.
Some of the specific proposals that are included in the Beginning Farmer bill are:
Individual Development Accounts and FSA Microloans
Passed in the 2008 Farm Bill but never appropriated to date, the IDA pilot program would support the establishment of matched savings accounts for beginning and socially disadvantaged producers, the proceeds of which may be used on capital expenditures for a farm or ranch operation, including purchases of land, buildings, equipment, or livestock. The program would be administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and would include 15 state pilot programs. The Bill also includes a proposal for FSA to deliver microloans not to exceed $35,000 that would serve the financial needs of young beginning farmers and ranchers.
"Access to capital is the number one challenge for beginning farmers," says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Director of the National Young Farmers' Coalition – an NSAC member group based in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. "Through the Individual Development Accounts pilot program and FSA microloans, the Act will get funds where they're needed and help new farm businesses get off the ground."
Other credit provisions in the bill offer support for the direct and guaranteed loan set-asides for beginning farmers and ranchers, and increasing the loan amount that beginning farmers can request under the Down Payment Loan Program.
“Access to capital is a must for beginning farmers,” said Tyler Benson, a farmer member of Land Stewardship Project who raises crops and cattle near Rushford, Minnesota, thanks in part to an FSA beginning farmer loan which was key in getting his operation started. “These programs are good investments—new farmers are new jobs. They buy products and supplies for their business and create economic activity. We need more of that in rural America.”