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Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act an Important Step for Agriculture

Land Stewardship Project says now is the time to invest in new farmers and ranchers.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, sponsored by Representative Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Representative Tim Walz, D-Minn., has been hailed as a measure that would help new farmers and ranchers enter agriculture and take advantage of emerging markets.

Adam Warthesen, Policy Program Organizer with the Land Stewardship Project, explains why this effort is so important to the future of agriculture.

"As we look at agriculture it's on the upswing, but is it on the upswing in terms of bringing in new farmers," Warthesen said. "We sure hope it can be and it should be. Agriculture can be a jobs creator and it can be good to our communities and good for the land."

Warthesen notes the bill includes reauthorization of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, funding for the Value Added Producer Grants Program, enhanced lending provisions and conservation incentives for beginning farmers and ranchers.

"There are provisions that can support beginning farmers access to credit because we know that is important – agriculture is a capital intensive business," Warthesen said. "There are provisions that provided beginning farmers a leg up in getting into conservation programs. We know that once a farmer establishes conservation, it typically lasts on that farm through its entire life. And then there are provisions that help communities or groups or institutions that are assisting, training, mentoring beginning farmers."

Warthesen believes there is interest in getting into agriculture. He says there are a lot of people who want to come to agriculture and want to make a career out of it and the funding in this package is part of moving that ahead. Warthesen also says non-farm folks should see the value in this piece of legislation.

"It is the people in agriculture that produce the food and fiber of our nation, it is the people in agrilture that protect our natural resource base, and it is the people that are going to maintain the food security of our nation," Warthesen said. "Those are the reasons I think it is time to invest in new farmers. We need a wave of new momentum for new farmers to come to agriculture and this is beginning that wave."

Warthesen encourages those in agriculture to contact their representatives and encourage them to support this measure. He notes companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.

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