USDA Deputy Ag Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared several promising points about young and new farmers with a House Agriculture subcommittee. And today's farmers and wanna-be farmers need to be aware of the many opportunities for young people to get a "money leg" up. So please read on.
USDA has launched www.usda.gov/newfarmers to help young people and new farmers find needed assistance. It's a single front door for all USDA resources that can be used by a new and beginning farmer, and it's indexed by customer need.
* Youth loans: Loans of up to $5,000 are available to eligible youths, ages 10 to 20, to finance income producing and agriculturally related projects. The projects must be modest in size, educational, and initiated and carried out by youths participating in a 4-H Club, FFA, or similar organization.
The 2014 Farm Bill removed the prior rural residency requirement for youth loans. It allows the Farm Service Agency to extend loan assistance to youth residing in suburban and urban areas to finance eligible ag-related projects. This fiscal year, FSA lent almost $6 million to approximately 2,000 youths. For more details, click on youth loans.
* Microloans: The micro loan program began in 2013. Since then the Farm Service Agency has issued 12,000 operating microloans across the country. Some 70% have gone to beginning farmers.
Those loans cover initial start-up expenses; annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities,
land rents; marketing and distribution expenses; family living expenses; purchase of livestock, equipment and essential materials; minor farm improvements such as wells and
coolers; hoop houses; irrigation; even delivery vehicles.
For more details, click on microloans.
Land access, too
USDA also works to help support access to land for new farmers. Since 2009, FSA has facilitated 2,305 contracts to transition over 384,000 acres of expiring conservation reserve program land from retired or retiring landowners to beginning or socially disadvantaged producers for sustainable grazing or crop production.
Don't forget to check out state programs such as Pennsylvania Farm Link at www.pafarmlink.org and New York FarmLink at New York farmnet. Most Farm Credit associations also have incentive loan programs for beginning farmers.