What is in this article?:
- Beginning Farmer Act sets path for future of U.S. agriculture
- Specific proposals
- Conservation programs
- Military veterans
- 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.
Loans and set asides for conservation programs
The Bill would also reauthorize many existing conservation programs targeted at beginning farmers, such as the Conservation Reserve Program-Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) which provides incentives to retired or retiring farmers to rent or lease land expiring from CRP contracts to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers.
"This bill will not only help beginning farmers get started in agriculture, but it will help them get started right by making conservation programs work for them," noted Traci Bruckner with the Center for Rural Affairs—an NSAC member based in Lyons, Nebraska. Bruckner continues: "It will also help them gain access to land by continuing the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program, which helps beginners bring land that was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program back into production in a conservation-based manner."
Additional conservation provisions support reaffirming the existing cost-share differential and funding set-asides for beginning farmers in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and to include a priority for beginning farmers in the Conservation Innovation Grant subprogram. The bill would also provide a priority for beginning farmers within FSA’s Conservation Loan program, which provides loans to producers to establish conservation practices and structures on their operation.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
One of the most important provisions in this bill is a proposal to reauthorize and increase mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) – a highly successful program first authorized in the 2008 farm bill, which provides competitive grants to a wide range of community-based training and education programs for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. To date, BFRDP has funded 105 projects in 48 states and territories, including programs that assist with farm transition, provide technical assistance for beginning farmers, and offer financial and business training curriculum.
“Networking and connecting to farmers and others through community based [farmer training] programs was invaluable to helping us get started in farming,” said beginning farmer Katie Felland, who operates a farm that produces eggs, apples, pumpkins, berries and popcorn in Owatonna, Minnesota. “We hope to grow our farm in the future, and getting support and assistance from community groups, we know can be effective. That’s partly why this legislation makes sense—it provides community-based groups with the resources to work on local issues new farmers face.”
The bill also includes a provision to coordinate the borrower training program requirement administered through FSA with BFRDP-funded programs that offer financial training. A final research provision in the bill would authorize research, education, and extension, projects to be funded under USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative that are related to beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged and immigrant farmers, farm transition, farm transfer, farm entry, new marketing and farm viability alternatives, and related issues.