On Friday USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the Transition Incentives Program that encourages retired farmers to transition their land to beginning or disadvantaged farmers. It was established under the Conservation title of the 2008 Farm Bill.
"Ensuring that our nation's land is returned to production using sustainable methods is critical not only for our future food supply, but also for the economic future of our rural communities," said Merrigan. "Access to land is one of the greatest challenges faced by new farmers. The Transition Incentives Program is one more tool in the USDA toolkit to protect family farms and support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers."
Under this program retiring owners and operators with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts can transition that land to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher. Merrigan said this program provides a "glide path" for new entrance into agriculture, which she says is very important as the average age of U.S. farmers is 57 and the next generation of farmers needed to be found.
"Under TIP the land transitioned must be returned to production using sustainable grazing or crop production methods. The land can also be enrolled in continuous CRP, the Conservation Stewardship Program, or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program," Merrigan said. "So this is how it works; as an incentive to participate in the program, the retired or retiring landowner will be eligible to receive up to two additional annual CRP rental payments after the contract expires provided he transitions the land to a non-family member that is a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer."
The landowner must agree to sell, have a contract to sell, or agree to long-term lease (a minimum of 5 years) the land under CRP contract to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher by Oct. 1 of the year the CRP contract expires.
"I think this is a major step forward in our overall effort here at USDA to help our new or socially disadvantaged farmers, particularly those who want to start or expand their operation in a sustainable way," Merrigan said. "It's supporting local economies, providing opportunities for these new folks, and really repaving the way to rebuild and revitalize rural America."
Signup for TIP begins on Monday, May 17, 2010 and interested producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office for detailed information and the opportunity to enroll in the Transition Incentives Program.