The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (IDA) Program

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The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (IDA) Program was designed to help beginning farmers and ranchers of limited-means build the capital necessary to start or expand their agricultural businesses through matched savings accounts.

The program, which has not been funded yet, has the potential to grow a new generation of farmers and ranchers by pairing business management training and savings incentives for individuals who might not otherwise have access to the capital and technical assistance necessary for a successful start in agriculture.


Stories From the Farm: Working Hard to Succeed

Ross Montgomery

Ross Montgomery. Photo courtesy of Ross Montgomery.

Ross Montgomery is a 6th generation farmer juggling school, a full-time job, and a 220-acre commercial calving operation. A native of Guide Rock, Nebraska, Ross is working hard to reach his goal of farming full-time by the time he’s thirty. With the help of his grandparents and father, Ross is lucky to have land, but is struggling to acquire and pay off important assets like cattle and equipment.

Ross graduated from High School in Superior, Nebraska, where he gained valuable financial advice from his FFA advisor. He has since received his Associate’s degree in Agronomy from UNL, and drives 180 miles every weekend to complete his B.A. in Agriculture Business at Fort Hays State University. Ross’ employer, All Points Cooperative, is paying for both degrees with the understanding that Ross will work for them full-time until 2014.

Ross faces many challenges as a beginner, including dealing with long drives to reach work and school on the weekends. He currently owns half of his cows, and says it’s important to pay the rest off soon. “Receiving essentially 100% interest through an IDA would be great,” he says, noting that these savings and the financial training that comes with them would be a huge help to beginning farmers like himself. An IDA account offers a good start for young farmers with little credit, he explains, and says he would put his savings toward a down payment on land.

How Does It Work?

Beginning Farmer and Rancher IDA is a competitive grant program available to non-profits, tribes, and local government agencies to be administered by USDA’s Farm Services Agency. The program would enable beginning farmers and ranchers to open an Individual Development Account (matched savings account) in order to save for a farming-related asset including:

  • farmland
  • farming equipment
  • breeding stock, and
  • other productive assets permitted by USDA.

Program participants are required to complete financial training programs and develop a savings plan before the funds may be withdrawn for asset purchase.

How Does the Match Savings Account Work?

  • Savings is matched up to a rate of 2:1 (so two dollars for every dollar saved);
  • Annual cap on beginning farmer or ranchers savings that can be matched is $3,000;
  • Match dollars provided at a 2:1 rate then is $6,000
  • Totals $9,000 annually in leveraged savings

How Much Funding is Available?

This program has not yet been funded by the legislation authorizes up to $25 million – or five million a year over a five year period. While any tribe, non-profit, or local or state government can submit an application to receive a grant, a 50% local match is needed to obtain the federal grant which may not exceed $250,000.

If fully funded, Beginning Farmer and Rancher IDA could administer at least 20 grants. We estimate that over the tenure of the program, 4,000 agricultural entrepreneurs could receive matched savings to help them get started or expand their agriculture operation.

Ready to Apply?

Sign-up for the Center for Rural Affairs Newsletter so we can let you know when the program is up and running. Click here to sign up now.


California FarmLink

California FarmLink created the model for this program. Learn more from their Frequently Asked Questions Guide, which provides the details on how their program works.

Learn how California FarmLink’s farmers have succeeded

News and Stories

Rebecca King, farmer from California who has participated in the IDA program sponsored by California FarmLink, describes how the program assisted her in this opinion editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Learn More

Call Traci Bruckner at 402.687.2103, Ext. 1016 or by email her at


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