Bayer-Monsanto merger survey is open until Feb. 12

Clarification: The Center for Rural Affairs is a supporting partner in this survey. Please direct questions to Friends of the Earth.

The farm economy is once again in the midst of substantial structural changes.

A major wave of consolidation in the seed and chemical industry that kicked off in 2016 continues to move forward through market and regulatory hoops. The deals are reshaping an already highly consolidated market. 

The European Union just extended its deadline to complete its decision on the Bayer-Monsanto merger because it has serious concerns. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is deep into discussions with affected parties and deciding how it will act on the merger.

Please fill out this survey to help us understand whether some recent changes in corporate control (for example, the Dow & DuPont merger or the proposed Bayer & Monsanto merger) may affect farming practices. Answers will be used to inform policymakers in D.C. and in state capitals about the impact of corporate power on farming.

The time is now for us to have our voices heard, and this survey is a critical way for us to get important information to the Department of Justice and policymakers.

Please take this survey about the impact of concentrated corporate power on your farming operations and your opinion about the Bayer-Monsanto merger by midnight, Monday, Feb. 12. It should take about 10 minutes. 

As giant transnational corporations increase their power over the market, independent farmers are left with fewer options and suffer from less competition among input providers. Farmers have lost access to seed varieties and genetic traits while seeing the prices they pay for biotechnology traits skyrocket.

The Center believes in the power of a competitive marketplace and the role of government in guarding against unfair and anticompetitive market practices.

We are working with a number of organizations to collect information through this survey. Some of the other organizations include National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, Organization for Competitive Markets, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, and Farm Aid. 

Remember, the deadline to fill out the survey is midnight on Feb. 12:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZHXFB8B Read more about Bayer-Monsanto merger survey is open until Feb. 12

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
Blog (deprecated)

60,000 beginning farmers benefit from USDA program

Interest in farming is strong. We hear from beginners, as well as retiring farmers and ranchers, each day who are looking for opportunities and searching for solutions to farm transition.

The 2008 farm bill introduced USDA’s first, and so far only, program focused on the next generation of farmers: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

The program funds organizations to conduct training activities, and during the past nine years, 250 projects have reached 60,000 beginners. Nearly all projects include business management training, skills previous generations of farmers largely had to learn on the job.

Surveys and interviews with project leaders have revealed farmer-to-farmer mentoring and information sharing were very effective; helping new farmers create networks of peers and advisors was valuable; and one-on-one advising addressed specific needs.

Organizations have also benefited from the program. Many developed tools and resources, now widely shared; with a majority still available. The Center for Rural Affairs, for example, led one project (with three partners), and has participated in six other projects nationwide.

Fifty-six percent of projects were led by organizations, and 40 percent were led by land-grant universities. Partnerships are required, which joins the strengths of several organizations and creates lasting networks. The program required 25 percent of funds to reach underserved and socially-disadvantaged farmers; more than half the funding served these audiences.

A report on the program’s impacts, “Cultivating the Next Generation,” by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, can be found at http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/bfrdp/Read more about 60,000 beginning farmers benefit from USDA program

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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Weekly column

Proposed tax legislation places burden on rural residents, relief to wealthy

The governor’s tax plan, LB 947, should be recognized for its attempt to address Nebraska's property tax challenge. However, this plan does little to bring balance and sound tax policy change to the state’s tax system.

By giving permanence and prioritization to income tax cuts for our state’s highest earners and corporations, rural Nebraska’s property tax plight remains secondary, and leaves residents reeling from continued cuts to health care, education, and public services.

Rural residents have shared, often publicly, they would rather see an increase in income taxes to help offset the costs of property tax relief. They are desperate for property tax relief, but this desperation does not supersede the demand for pragmatism and wise investment in health care, schools, and services critical to communities. Failing to account for the significant and long-term budget gap, which this legislation stands to create, is not only irresponsible, but will fundamentally reshape rural Nebraska.

The state’s metaphorical three-legged tax stool is imbalanced, leaning heavily upon property tax. The proposed tax plan exacerbates this imbalance by reducing income tax revenues and issuing income tax credits guised as property tax relief. Structural reliance on property taxes to fund education and local governments will remain. Gaps are left in Nebraska’s budget for today and into the future.

LB 947 recognizes rural Nebraskans’ need for property tax relief. Yet, residents are not willing to carry the burden of an income tax cut for the state’s wealthiest residents, while foregoing access to health care and investments in public education and public safety which uphold their communities.

For real property tax relief, the legislature must bring forth and vote for legislation that not only addresses the actual property tax burden, but also identifies how the state will fulfill its obligations. Read more about Proposed tax legislation places burden on rural residents, relief to wealthy

  • Farm Policy
  • Small Towns
  • Small TownsCommunity Development
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Weekly column

Spindola is excited to develop meaningful relationships with borrowers

My goal is to help small towns in rural Nebraska stay vibrant places to live by creating new businesses, and assisting communities grow from the inside out. I want to keep small towns attractive for individuals to stay in or come back to their birthplace.

This job gives me an opportunity to provide assistance to individuals who are looking to start or expand their businesses. Part of my role as a Latino loan specialist is to help people with financing, technical assistance, and training.

I’m excited to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with borrowers before, during, and after their loan transactions. I feel privileged for the chance to work with people who have a dream, and to be part of and witness the moment when that dream becomes a reality.

Over the years, I’ve done work on a contract basis for the Center on different occasions. First, as a REAP technical assistance provider for two years, then as an instructor for the Business Plan Basics training in Spanish for three years.

My previous employment experiences have given me plenty of opportunities to prepare for my new, full-time role with the Center. In 2016, I joined the Central Community College Entrepreneurship Center as a business coordinator, and I assisted the director of regional economic development agencies, helping with small businesses. In Venezuela, I worked for more than 10 years in small business development, then I was involved in international trading. I obtained an MBA in management from Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela, and I have experience in marketing research and customer service culture.

My husband, Julio Reyes, and I live in Columbus, Nebraska, a place we feel lucky to raise our 3-year-old son and call our home. I’m originally from Venezuela, growing up in Valencia, the industrial capital and third largest city in the country. Julio and I moved to Nebraska in 2013 to reunite with my parents and siblings who have lived here since 1998.

Rural Nebraska is one of the best places to grow and establish a family. The warmth and generosity of the people around my own family has made our transition into this amazing state so much easier.

I am grateful and feel privileged to have this job. I get to help people and communities, and I get to learn something new every day.

I can be reached at 402.942.1113 or veronicas@cfra.org.

Veronica assists small businesses in 10 counties, including Burt, Cedar, Cuming, Dakota, Dixon, Madison, Pierce, Stanton, Thurston, and Wayne counties. She serves Latino businesses in 18 counties, including Antelope, Boone, Burt, Cedar, Colfax, Cuming, Dakota, Dixon, Dodge, Knox, Madison, Nance, Pierce, Platte, Stanton, Thurston, Washington, and Wayne counties. For a map, click here. Read more about Spindola is excited to develop meaningful relationships with borrowers

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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PACE lending: What is it?

Clean energy from wind and solar continues to grow our economy nationwide, mainly due to decreasing costs making renewables more competitive than non-renewables.

However, another force is at play. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) lending provides financing for property owners to make efficiency and clean energy upgrades. Financing is administered through energy districts, typically at the county or municipal level, and is added to their property tax bills during the useful life of the installation upgrades.

For example, a homeowner installs energy efficient windows and a geothermal energy system. Rather than borrow a 10-year loan to pay for it, the homeowner works with their local energy district (typically a county or municipal utility) for a 20-year PACE loan. The homeowner and energy district officials work through the approval process, agree on repayment rates, and comply with consumer safeguards to install the upgrades. The PACE loan is added to the homeowner’s property tax bill, and is transferable, which means if the property is sold before the loan is paid, the next owners will continue the repayment plan. In most cases, the energy savings are greater than the increase in the property tax bill. The property owner comes out ahead, and so does the lender.

PACE lending is enacted at the county or state level, and is split between programs for residential and commercial/industrial properties. Currently, residential PACE lending is only available statewide in California, Missouri, and Florida, and is somewhat controversial. PACE lending for commercial or industrial properties is up and running in 20 states. To view a map, click here. Enabling legislation has been passed in many more states, and work needs to be done at the local level to help municipalities take advantage.

Where PACE lending is smartly implemented, it works and works well. Each state can adapt PACE lending legislation in their own way. For example, Nebraska, a public power state, introduced PACE legislation with municipal utilities in mind. Energy districts were aligned with municipalities. However, rural residents living outside municipal boundaries were excluded from these energy districts and PACE lending. The rule was amended the following year.

The U.S. Department of Energy has published best practice guidelines for PACE programs. Key guidelines include defining eligible improvements and criteria, and establishing consumer and lender protections. PACE lending has grown with bipartisan support and can drive economic growth and energy independence. Which states will be next?

Feature photo: Adobe Stock/Highwaystarz Read more about PACE lending: What is it?

  • Clean Energy
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Congress considers bill to modernize crop insurance

Anna Johnson also contributed to this blog.

We (Cora and Anna) traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with our representatives in Congress. We met with staff from – count ‘em – nine congressional offices for Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas, and stopped by several more to drop off our farm bill platform. We let them know the next farm bill must support conservation and beginning farmers, and strengthen crop insurance.

We were able to share with congressional offices that Rep. Nolan, of Minnesota, recently introduced a bill that addresses current weaknesses in our crop insurance system, and today we’d like to share it with you.

This bill, H.R. 4865, the Crop Insurance Modernization Act of 2018, would help improve and modernize crop insurance by increasing its capacity to support conservation and beginning farmers. H.R. 4865 would:

  • Remove crop insurance barriers to planting cover crops;
  • Start a pilot program within crop insurance regulations to reward farmers who use conservation practices to reduce their on-farm risk;
  • Improve monitoring on conservation compliance; and
  • Increase access to crop insurance by expanding premium discounts for beginning farmers.

Click here to learn more about H.R. 4865.

If this proposals sounds exciting to you, be sure to give your representative a quick call to let them know they should support H.R. 4865, too.

Did you call your representative (202.224.3121) to let them know you support modernizing crop insurance and to ask them to support H.R. 4865? Let us know.

Until next time,
Anna Johnson & Cora Fox


P.S. We traveled to Washington, D.C., for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition winter meeting. We joined more than 100 people on the Hill, meeting with staff from 100 congressional offices. Here’s us at the Capitol (photo to the right).

Feature photo: Cora Fox and Anna Johnson met with one of Joni Ernst's staffers last week in Washington, D.C. Read more about Congress considers bill to modernize crop insurance

  • Crop Insurance Reform
  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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Sign up now for working lands conservation program

The 2018 sign-up deadline for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is quickly approaching.

The nation’s largest working lands conservation program, CSP rewards farmers for their conservation efforts, and helps them implement additional conservation measures on their land. With contract payments starting at $1,500, CSP has helped thousands of farmers across the U.S. plant cover crops, implement buffer strips, develop wildlife habitat, and more.

Interested farmers and ranchers must submit their applications by March 2, 2018, to be considered for this year’s sign-up. To apply, producers should stop by their local NRCS office and submit the initial application materials.

Last year, we interviewed farmers who have used the program. We heard CSP is a great way to try conservation methods.

One farmer said, “CSP enhancement activities contribute toward the goals of resource conservation.” He said it reduced nutrient loss and improved water quality.

Another uses CSP to maximize conservation practices. He said CSP is most beneficial “for accomplishing overall maintenance and improvements of our land.”

For more information, or if you would like to share your story, contact me at 402.687.2100 ext. 1012 or coraf@cfra.org or visit our website at cfra.org.

To learn about CSP eligibility, enrollment, and more — check out the Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program and Filing information from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).


Feature photo: Multiple rows of trees and shrubs, as well as a native grass strip, combine in a riparian buffer to protect Bear Creek in Story County, Iowa. The buffer is a nationally designated demonstration area for riparian buffers. | Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Read more about Sign up now for working lands conservation program

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
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Weekly column

10 helpful resources for farmers

Sometimes farmers need a helping hand. Maybe you’d like financial counseling, or support during land transition, but aren’t sure where to go? Are you concerned about your farming operation or need mediation services?

Whether you are a beginning farmer or have been farming for 30 years, it is important to know what resources are available to assist you in your farming venture. There are many resources available, but it can be cumbersome to sort through them all.

The Center for Rural Affairs has been working to compile a list of well-established organizations to aid farmers in navigating these resources. We interviewed organizations that we have worked with in the past, and asked for recommendations of other organizations to reach out to. While this list is not all-inclusive of every resource available, it covers a wide array of services.

The following organizations work diligently to serve farmers and ranchers, whether it be through education, technical assistance, mediation, or counseling. Feel free to reach out to these organizations with any questions you may have – they are here to help you!

Center for Rural Affairs
402.687.2100
www.cfra.org

The Center for Rural Affairs operates a farmer helpline to answer questions regarding farm bill programs that can help you get started in farming or ranching as beginners, implement conservation programs, or even transition to organic farming.

Through work with an established network of farm organizations, the Center for Rural Affairs also makes referrals to other organizations that may better address the question or concern of the farmer.

Community Crops
402.474.9802
communitycrops.org/

Community Crops, located in Lincoln, Nebraska, started as one community garden in 2003. Community Crops now includes 12 community garden sites, a training farm, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and more.

Low-income farmers or aspiring farmers from urban areas are able to rent low-cost land and tools on the Community Crops farm. Community Crops also provides 12-week courses during the winter to address a variety of topics, including: business planning, technical production assistance, seed-saving, crop planning, irrigation systems, food safety, etc.

Farm Aid
800.FARM.AID (800.327.6243)
www.farmaid.org/our-work/resources-for-farmers/

Farm Aid has an extensive network across the United States and is able to connect farmers to the best resources in their local area. The Farm Aid Online Directory includes more than 750 organizations with resources to assist farmers in a variety of areas. Farm Aid has also developed a series of Farmer Resource Guides, providing valuable information on farm start-ups, sustainable agriculture, legal issues in farming, farm financing, farm activism and organizing, etc.

Iowa Concern
800.447.1885
www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/

Iowa Concern is a source of help for Iowans in the following areas: legal issues, finance, stress, and crisis/disaster. Farmers in need can call the hotline or use the live chat function to speak with an expert 24/7. Using the Iowa State University Extension network, Iowa Concern information can be found in all 99 counties.

Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services (KAMS)
800.321.FARM (800.321.3276)
ksre.k-state.edu/kams/

Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services (KAMS) is an official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified state agricultural mediation program for Kansas. For more than 30 years, KAMS has helped farmers and ranchers explore options through mediation as well as other financial and legal concerns they might have. KAMS helps with appeal options for USDA adverse decisions: farm loan delinquency, denial, or adverse decisions for USDA farm programs. Also, KAMS helps producers prepare for mediation through support services such as agricultural financial counseling and legal assistance. Talk to an attorney over the phone at no cost.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension
517.279.4311
msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/managing_farm_stress

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension prides itself as a program created for farmers by people with farming background. Its free and self-paced online course, “Weathering the Storm: How to Manage Stress on the Farm,” addresses the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and helps farmers cope with the challenges they may face.

Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU)
402.476.8815
nebraskafarmersunion.org/contact-us/

The Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) is a founding member of the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline. NeFU plays an active role in the farm bill and works on grassroots driven policy. Through their work, NeFU has developed well-established connections with various farm organizations, and is able to make referrals for any farm questions they may receive.

Nebraska Rural Response Hotline
8004.464.0258
imneb.org/imn-programs/farming/rural-response-hotline/

The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline is a primary service provided by the Rural Response Council through Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska. Farmers, ranchers, and rural residents can call the hotline and speak directly to an experienced staff person. With an extensive network, staff are able to assist over the phone and also make referrals to attorneys, financial counselors, clergy, other farmers, and mediation services as needed.

In addition, staff can assist callers with stress, depression, or other mental health concerns through the COMHT (Counseling, Outreach, and Mental Health Therapy) Program.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
800.346.9140
attra.ncat.org/management/contact.html

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) mission is to help people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.

NCAT’s ATTRA Program is committed to providing high-value information and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, extension agents, educators, and others involved in implementing sustainable agriculture practices in the U.S. ATTRA specialists are available to provide one-on-one technical assistance and can be reached via the ATTRA Helpline, email, and through live online chat features. ATTRA publications, webinars, online tutorials, podcasts, and other resources are available on the ATTRA website.

Wisconsin Farm Center
800.942.2474
datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Growing_WI/FarmCenterOverview.aspx

Wisconsin Farm Center operates a helpline, assists farmers through one-on-one consultations on the farm, and offers mediation services. Core programs include: farm financial consultations; succession planning in organics, livestock, specialty crops, and grazing; minority farmers outreach; and mediation and counseling vouchers.



We’re here to help farmers. If you have any questions for the Center for Rural Affairs, contact Cora at 402.687.2100 x 1012 or coraf@cfra.org. Read more about 10 helpful resources for farmers

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Blog (deprecated)

Sandoval has led the Latino Business Center for 7 years

Editor's note: Juan has led the Latino Business Center since 2010. This week, we say goodbye and wish him well in his future endeavors. Thank you for your unwavering dedication to rural America and small businesses. Photos: Juan was honored at our December board meeting with an Award of Appreciation, "In light of his tireless, knowledgeable, and cheerful work on behalf of hundreds ot Latino and other rural Nebraskans pursuing the American Dream through small businesses."

For 13 years, the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) has operated the Latino Business Center (LBC). Two directors have led the LBC, starting with Adriana Dungan in 2005. In 2010, leadership transitioned to me.

Nancy Flock, Griselda Rendon, and former employee Imelda Catalan have worked as loan specialists serving entrepreneurs in southeast, central, and western Nebraska.

REAP believes in its work with Latino entrepreneurs in rural Nebraska. 

Loans

In 2011, LBC placed 9 loans to businesses. That number grew to 59 loans in 2017.

From 2014 to 2017, 146 loans were awarded to Latino business.

In the last five years, 185 loans were placed with Latino businesses.

Lending capacity improved from $149,500 in 2011 to $1,032,295 in 2017.

Loans in the amount of $2,086,395 were placed in the last three years.

Loans in the amount of $2,672,795 were committed in the last six years.

Counseling and training

The number of clients trained and counseled went from 891 in 2011 to 1,335 in 2017.

In the last three years, 3,357 Latinos have been trained or counseled.

In the last six years, 6,161 Latinos have been trained or counseled.

Programs offered

  • New American Loan Fund, a private fund designated to help Latinos who are not able to qualify for traditional loans or federal loans;
  • Credit builder loan;
  • Credit booster program; and 
  • Alice Integrity Loan Fund.

Other highlights

REAP received $950,000 in 2015 to implement the New American Loan Fund. Our goal is to raise $5 million by 2025.

This growth is managed by only two Latino loan specialists.*

As I transition to a new career, I extend my gratitude to the Center for Rural Affairs staff and board, our clients, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, many economic development and chamber of commerce offices across the state, city staff members, and many colleagues who support and believe in the work I developed for a number of years.

Here is the strong foundation for the next generations to take over. 

THANK YOU, 

Juan Sandoval

*Editor's note: Since Juan wrote this piece, one more Latino Business Specialist has been added to our staff. Veronica Spindola is based out of her home office in Columbus, Nebraska. Check out our coverage map here. Read more about Sandoval has led the Latino Business Center for 7 years

  • Small Business
  • Small BusinessREAP
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Newsletter

Speak up through advocacy

State and national policy directly impact how we live. With state legislative sessions in full swing, how can you help guide your representatives’ policy decisions? Speak up through advocacy.

Start with identifying your elected officials. On both the state and federal levels, you are represented by members of the House and Senate. Find your elected officials using your zip code at cfra.org/findyourlawmakers.

Before contacting your representatives, craft the message you would like to share. Identify one issue and develop talking points. These will be your reference points if conversation moves away from your issue.

Why is this issue important to you? Tell your story. Make sure your representative hears how this issue has affected you and those close to you. Provide data, if relevant.

You can contact your representative in several ways. Make a phone call, attend a community meeting, send an email, or share your perspective with the media through a letter to the editor.

Don’t forget to display confidence, enthusiasm, credibility, and commitment. One way to display credibility is telling your representative where you live, so they know you are a constituent in their district.

How will these actions create change? The people you are reaching out to are lawmakers who need your vote to become elected or stay in office. As your representatives, their job is to shape policy on behalf of your interests.

Your advocacy ensures your voice is heard on issues that matter most to you. Remember to always show respect to legislators and their staff members, regardless of where they stand on the issue.

Contact info@cfra.org to tell us about your policy priorities or advocacy actions you are taking. Read more about Speak up through advocacy

  • Farm Policy
  • Small Business
  • Small Towns
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Weekly column

Iowa Legislature passes weak water quality bill

This week, the Iowa House of Representatives passed a weakened version of the water quality bill that was discussed last session. Senate File 512 (SF512) now heads to the governor’s desk after members of the House receded the amendments they fought to support in 2017. Democrats expressed frustration that the bill would not be improved through a conference committee. Republicans largely supported the bill, but some stood in vocal opposition led by Rep. Chip Baltimore (R-Boone).

The bill commits more than $280 million over 12 years, pulling from a tax on drinking water and gambling revenues that currently supports school infrastructure and Vision Iowa programs.

What the bill does, as summarized by Rep. John Wills (R-Dickinson):

  • Provide rural water associations with funding for non-nutrient related issues;
  • Allow industries to access funds for point source pollution problems; and
  • Fund monitoring of private conservation efforts completed without cost-share.

What the bill does not do:

  • Target practices in watersheds in a strategic way;
  • Increase funding for water quality monitoring, instead relying on computer models;
  • Make funded projects accountable to nutrient reduction; and
  • Create a new, long-term, stable source of funding for water quality.

This bill was originally proposed two years ago by then Gov. Terry Branstad and then Sec. Tom Vilsack as a compromise. While it is not what we hoped for, the fact that it has faced such strong opposition is a mark of progress.

The Iowa House has proven to lead us towards serious policy on water quality in Iowa. For 2019, we should keep pressure on the Iowa Senate and our governor to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Read more about this bill in the Des Moines Register. Read more about Iowa Legislature passes weak water quality bill

  • EnvironmentWater
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Successful USDA program aids beginning farmers

The 2008 farm bill introduced U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) first – and so far only – program focused on the next generation of farmers: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The Center for Rural Affairs was a leader in designing, writing, and winning the program. A new report documents the success of the program in offering training opportunities to new farmers and ranchers.

The report, “Cultivating the Next Generation,” was released by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in October 2017 as the first evaluation of the program’s impacts.

The release is timely, as the 2018 farm bill approaches and as USDA programs receive critical review. It is also timely to the state of U.S. agriculture, as many young people and returning military veterans consider careers in agriculture at the same time many senior farmers reach the end of their careers.

Interest in farming is strong among beginners. We hear from beginners, as well as retiring farmers and ranchers, each day who are looking for opportunities and searching for solutions to farm transition.

The program funds organizations to conduct training activities for new farmers and ranchers. During the past nine years, 250 projects have reached some 60,000 beginners. Half of those projects have focused on audiences that USDA has historically not served well, such as Native Americans, Blacks, women, and ethnic minorities. Nearly all projects include business management training, skills that previous generations of farmers largely had to learn on the job.

Surveys and interviews with project leaders, as well as project reports, provided in-depth information on what worked across the country. Among the findings were that farmer-to-farmer mentoring and information sharing were very effective; helping new farmers create networks of peers and advisors was valuable; and one-on-one advising addressed specific needs.

Organizations also benefited from the program. Many developed tools and resources that are now widely shared; with a majority still available. The Center for Rural Affairs, for example, led one project (with three partners), and has participated in six other projects from coast to coast.

Key to this infrastructure growth was the structure of the program. Community-based organization participation was a high priority: 56 percent of projects were led by organizations, and 40 percent were led by land-grant universities. Partnerships are required, which joins the strengths of several organizations and creates lasting networks. The program required 25 percent of funds to reach underserved and socially-disadvantaged farmers; over half of the funding served these audiences.

The report noted several recommendations for improving the program. These included suggestions to project leaders to use farmers more in project development stages and to continue farmer-to-farmer teaching strategies. USDA is advised to help organizations track their participants beyond three years and to provide more opportunities for project leaders to learn from each other.

The report is available at: http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/bfrdp/

Feature photo: Beginning farmers tour Fox Run Farms near Brainard, Nebraska, and learn about growing vegetables. According to a recent report, USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program reached 60,000 beginners in nine years. | Photo by Rhea Landholm Read more about Successful USDA program aids beginning farmers

  • Farm Policy
  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
  • Farm PolicyFarm and Food
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