USDA recently announced more than $18 million in grants to organizations across 24 states that will help beginning farmers and ranchers with the training and resources needed to run productive, sustainable farms.
Specifically in Minnesota, these three will receive funding:
-Minnesota Food Association, Marine on St. Croix, $320,107
-Latino Economic Development Center, Minneapolis, $540,600
-Hmong American Partnership, St. Paul, $526,828
At the Farm Progress Show last week in Boone, Iowa, ag secretary Tom Vilsack said investing in beginning farmers, ranchers and producers is not only a smart investment, but one that is vital to our nation's national and economic security.
"In the past few decades, U.S. agriculture has become the second most productive sector of the American economy thanks to farmers adopting technology, reducing debt, and effectively managing risk," said Vilsack. "Last year, America's farmers, ranchers and producers achieved record farm income and record exports. To protect and sustain these successes, we must continue to build an agriculture industry diverse and successful enough to attract the smartest, hardest-working people in the nation. These grants will help beginning farmers and ranchers overcome the unique challenges they face and gain knowledge and skills that will help them become profitable and sustainable."
USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program established through the 2008 Farm Bill.
USDA makes BFRDP grants to organizations that implement education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer. At least 25% of the program's funding supports the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in farming and ranching.
BFRDP will provide $18 million in funding this year, the fourth year of the program. Future funding is dependent on congressional reauthorization. For more information on the BFRDP program, and for a list of fiscal year 2012 awards, visit www.nifa.usda.gov
Beginning farmers, by USDA definition, are individuals with 10 years or less experience operating farms. Beginning farmers are in all age ranges, racial and ethnic groups, and both male and female. Currently, 30% of principal operators of farms are 65 years old or more, while the average age of U.S. farmers has climbed from 54 in 1997 to 57 in 2007.