As part of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced the availability of more than $19 million in grants to improve training for new ag producers.
The program offers education, training, technical assistance and outreach to new farmers and those who have been farming or ranching for 10 or fewer years. It is managed by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture.
The funding is a renewal and expansion of the BFRDP, authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.
NIFA will award grants to organizations conducting programs that help beginning farmers and ranchers. Priority will be given to projects that are partnerships and collaborations led by or including non-governmental, community-based, or school-based agricultural educational organizations.
All applicants are required to provide funds or in-kind support from non-federal sources in an amount that is at least equal to 25% of the federal funds requested.
By law, at least 5% of available funding will be allocated to programs and services for limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged beginning farmers and ranchers and farmworkers. Another 5% of available funding will be allocated for programming and services for military veteran farmers and ranchers.
"BFRDP is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers," says Juli Obudzinski, senior policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "Although the program has only been around for a few years, young farming communities around the country are already seeing real impacts on the ground."
Since 2009, BFRDP has invested over $70 million to develop and strengthen innovative new farmer training programs and resources across the country, and has funded 145 projects in 46 states.
"Beginning farmers are younger on average, and less likely to farm full-time than more established farmers," Obudzinski said. "They also tend to operate smaller farms, have more diversified operations, and an increasing number come from non-farm backgrounds with little access to farmland."
For interested parties, NIFA is hosting two upcoming webinars for interested applicants on April 30 and May 6 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. The first webinar will focus on general guidelines for the program, while the second webinar will focus on the funding allocations for socially-disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers.
"[NSAC] is excited to see this program up and running again, especially in light of the new Census figures which continue to show the aging of our farm population and a decrease in the number of farmers entering agriculture," Obudzinski added.