A sixth-generation Missouri family farm was the backdrop as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his plan to make production agriculture viable for the next generation.
Vilsack announced April 7 at Craig and Kelly Evans' farm near Lathrop, Mo., that USDA is making more than $17 million in grants available under the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
Unless you already work on a farm, receive a helping hand from a neighbor or relative, or get a lucky break, it's difficult to get started in production agriculture today, Vilsack noted. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is an education, training, mentoring, technical assistance and outreach program designed to help U.S. farmers and ranchers -- specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or less.
Congress authorized the FY 2009 funding for this program in the 2008 Farm Bill, with another $19 million in mandatory funding for FY 2010. Under the program, USDA will make grants available to state, local, tribal, regional, non-profits, community based organizations, academic institutions, and networks of appropriate private and public organizations to design programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers.
"This program underscores President Obama's commitment to support the nation's beginning farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said. "Through the beginning farmer and rancher grant program, we can help ensure that we are doing all we can for the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers."
The projects will be limited to three years. Budget requests in the proposals, which are due May 13, 2009, must not exceed $250,000 per year.
Vilsack also described recent initiatives, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, designed to keep farmers on the land. He had the opportunity to visit with another young farm couple, Chris and Kim Hiley of Gallatin, Mo., recent recipients of an ARRA-funded direct operating loan, during the farm stop. To date, nearly $180 million has been disbursed to farmers for direct operating loans. The Hileys plan to use the low-interest loan to expand their beef operation and feed out cattle.
"This is an important commitment to young and beginning farmers as well as to mid-size family farms," Vilsack said. "It's vital to the future of this country that we continue operations like the Evans and Hiley family farms. Generation after generation after generation pass on not just the farm, but a value system of hard work and dedication to family and community."
More information about the program is at: www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/beginningfarmerandrancher.cfm.