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USDA Announces Funding For Farming’s Next Generation

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a $27.9 million investment across 45 organizations to train beginning farmers in agricultural careers. The investment is part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which supports professional development activities such as governing financing, acquiring and managing land, and learning effective business and growing methods. The goal is to create a robust and diverse crop of next-generation farmers.

“The next generation of farmers and ranchers hold the promise for future American agriculture and rural prosperity,” Xochitl Torres Small, USDA deputy secretary, said in a press release. “Under [the current administration], USDA is providing our newest producers with the support they need to succeed and the educational resources to guide their operations on the path toward long-term sustainability and profitability.”

Photo Courtesy USDA

The focus on young farmers’ skills is critical as much of the country’s farming population is aging rapidly.

According to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Ag Census data, one-third of the country’s 3.4 million farmers are over 65.

“As the average age of our U.S. producers continues to increase, USDA is accelerating efforts to provide meaningful support to a rising cadre of farmers and ranchers — including military veterans interested in starting new careers after their service — so they can cultivate the skills needed to be productive, profitable and resilient,” Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA chief scientist and under secretary for research, education, and economics, said in the press release.

An example of this sentiment is the half-million dollars for the California Farm Bureau’s nonprofit California Bountiful Foundation — one of the 45 funded organizations. It will offer veterans or socially disadvantaged individuals agricultural mentoring and education programs.

Photo Courtesy USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

“When a small farm goes out of business, it generally gets eaten by a larger farm. And so one of the things that’s important for us is to have that competition and that new innovative blood coming in their hunger,” Jim Houston, part of the California Farm Bureau and California Bountiful Foundation, told CapRadio.

“They’ve got ideas. They’re also sometimes more attuned to their generation,” he continued. “So, having those ideas and having that competition is critical for us as consumers to continue to benefit from the food. And as California goes, so goes the nation and the world with its food supply.”

While the latest funding supports new farmers and ranchers, the USDA also supports a large number of programs that look out for established growers — including the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage program, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. These programs are designed to support farmers facing unexpected agricultural events, from flooding to drought. 

Photo Courtesy USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

The Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs provide income support to farmers when crop prices drop significantly. Meanwhile, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program helps producers manage risk through coverage for crop losses and planting that was prevented due to natural disasters.

The Tree Assistance Program helps orchardists and nursery tree growers replant or rehabilitate eligible trees damaged by natural disasters or diseases. Similarly, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish Program provides financial assistance to eligible producers for livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish losses.

The new USDA funding is critical to the longevity of American farmers. By supporting them in times of need and focusing on training up-and-coming farmers, the money can add to the long-term success of American lands from coast to coast.

By focusing on new farming methods and sustainability, the training helps ensure a vibrant and healthier future for the nation’s air, water, and crops — both plant and animal — grown or raised in the country’s soil.

Photo Courtesy USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

“Ensuring there will be a new generation of beginning farmers and ranchers — regardless of age or production choice — is essential to the continuation of agricultural production in the United States,” said Dr. Manjit Misra, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture director, said in a statement. “Beginning farmers and ranchers have unique educational, training, technical assistance, and outreach needs. Access to capital, land, and knowledge that assists in ensuring profitability and sustainability are vital to farmers and ranchers in their first 10 years of operation.” 

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