Support for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

The first round of grant recipients for the new USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program includes organizations doing truly inspiring work with beginning farmers and ranchers.
For example, California FarmLink helps beginners gain access to land through their Beginning Farmer Individual Development Accounts. Through this program beginning farmers and ranchers save a percentage of their income over a two-year period, and California FarmLink matches it three-to-one.

At the end of the two-year period, the beginner can accumulate nearly $20,000 for purchasing land, equipment or for other eligible farm related expenses. We are pleased to see California FarmLink among the grant recipients because it will help them provide education, training and mentoring to farmers and ranchers who participate in their innovative program.

However, after looking through the list of USDA grant recipients, it is surprising to see so many grants to universities, 17 out of 29. This is especially disconcerting since the statute calls for projects that are led by or include non-governmental and community-based organizations to be a priority for the grant program.

We are hopeful that most of these universities are partnering with such organizations or technical colleges where projects lead to real, on-the-ground results. We look forward to analyzing the awarded projects to see how well they serve beginning farmers and ranchers on the ground.

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