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Heitkamp, Collins introduce beginning farmer bill

Design-Pics/Thinkstock Two generations in wheat field
The bill scales up resources for farm transition and succession planning.

The Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762) has been introduced by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. The legislation will drive investments in the 2018 Farm Bill toward programs and policies that create economic opportunity for beginning farmers and ranchers.

“Farming and ranching is a way of life in North Dakota – but to ensure it stays that way, we have to support young and beginning farmers and ranchers,” Heitkamp said. “We must do more to cultivate the next generation of family farmers, and that’s what this bipartisan bill is about – giving young Americans the tools they need to succeed in agriculture and keep our rural communities strong. With the number of new farmers and ranchers falling – and our current population of farmers aging – this bill would take important steps to maintain North Dakota’s strong tradition of family farming and help new farmers and ranchers launch successful careers.”  

“The future of our country’s agriculture industry, a vital component of our economy, is dependent on energizing, supporting, and educating the next generation of farmers,” Collins said. “Our legislation would ensure that new farmers and ranchers have the tools and firsthand experience necessary to become established in this field by facilitating apprenticeships with older farmers, assisting with the acquisition of land from retiring farmers, and providing critical entrepreneurship and business training.  We encourage our colleagues to support this bipartisan bill to help new farmers build on our nation’s rich farming tradition.”

Nearly 100 million acres of farmland is set to change hands over the next five years – during the course of our next farm bill. While some retiring farmers and ranchers will be passing on their land and operations to their family members, many are heading toward retirement without a succession plan in place. The Next Generation in Agriculture Act will help keep more current farm operations in production, and better prepare more beginning producers to start successful businesses by: 

  • Empowering new farmers (including young, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers) with the skills to succeed in today’s agricultural economy by permanently reauthorizing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
  • Expanding beginning farmers’ access to land by scaling up resources for farm transition and succession planning.
  • Ensuring equitable access to federal crop insurance by expanding crop insurance incentives to better support beginning farmers in managing risk on their farms.
  • Increasing coordination, outreach and technical assistance between USDA programs that provide resources to young, beginning, and retiring farmers.  
  • Reauthorizing and increasing mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers. BFRDP provides competitive grants to nonprofits and universities to develop new farmer education, extension, outreach, and training initiatives, including incubator farm programs, business planning resources, and innovative farm and ranch transfer strategies.
  • Adding new flexibility for and emphasis on BFRDP projects that address urgent needs, including farmland transition and succession planning for new and retiring farmers and food safety. The bill would also eliminate BFRDP’s matching funds requirement, expanding access for lower-resource organizations that serve high-need populations of farmers.
  • Creating new positions at USDA to assist young and beginning farmers with technical assistance, help identify resources and opportunities for training, and help coordinate outreach efforts with local stakeholders and service providers.

Legislation praised

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Young Farmers Coalition praised the senators for introducing a bill that breaks down the barriers to successful careers in agriculture for America’s next generation of farmers and ranchers.

“The Next Generation in Agriculture Act creates a bridge between our current and aspiring farmers by facilitating the transfer of skills, knowledge, and resources between generations,” said Juli Obudzinski, NSAC Deputy Policy Director. 

"As the majority of our nation’s farmers approach retirement age, we need bold action to ensure that their legacy continues,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, co-founder and Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition. “Young people across the country are stepping up and looking to be the next generation of growers, but they need our help."

Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition

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