The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced grant investments of more than $53 million across three unique programs for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and military veterans to support American agriculture.
“Agriculture offers promising career opportunities, particularly in farming and ranching,” said Parag Chitnis, acting NIFA director. “Federal investments in programs that help new farmers get into the business, support military veterans who are considering farming and ranching as a new career, and address serious stress-related mental health issues among farmers, are critical to ensuring our next generation of food producers are able to successfully meet the challenges facing agriculture.”
While there are many excellent opportunities in agriculture, beginning farmers and ranchers have unique needs for education, training, and technical assistance. For those within their first 10 years of operation, it’s vital they have access to capital, land, and knowledge and information to help improve their operations’ profitability and sustainability. USDA-NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) awarded more than $16.7 million in 48 projects to deliver the support new farmers and ranchers need.
Long before the pandemic caused an increase in stress around the world, stress-related mental health was already a rising concern across farm communities coast to coast. USDA-NIFA introduced a competitive grants program, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), reauthorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, which supports projects to provide stress assistance for people in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations offers a conduit to improving behavioral health awareness, literacy, and more favorable outcomes for them and their families.
This year, USDA-NIFA awarded grants to four regional entities contributing to the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. Long-term, this three-year funding totaling $28.7 million will ensure vulnerable agricultural producers and their families have more options for high-quality, affordable help close to home. FRSAN awardees for Fiscal Year 2020 are:
- North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center: Engaging Programs to Support Producer Wellbeing – University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, received $7,187,000
- Building an Inclusive and Comprehensive Network for Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance in the Northeast – National Young Farmers Coalition, Hudson, NY, received $7,164,124
- Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network: Southern Region – University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, received $7,187,000
- Western Regional Agricultural Stress Assistance Program – Washington State University, Pullman, WA, received $7,182,886
In addition to opportunities available for military veterans in the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers program, USDA-NIFA also offers the Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program (AgVets). Today, USDA-NIFA announced $9.6 million awarded to 17 projects that will equip military veterans with skills, training, and experience for careers in food and agricultural and may also offer workforce readiness and employment prospects. Moreover, these investments will strengthen the personal finances of rural military veterans and military families and help grow their communities.
AgVets projects offer onsite, hands-on training and classroom education leading to a comprehensive understanding of successful farm and ranch operations and management practices. The program has supported more than 400 veterans over the last two years and these new projects will continue to create pathways for military veterans interested in agriculture careers.
These farmer-focused programs strengthen agricultural production and rural economies across the U.S. and support multiple themes outlined in the USDA Science Blueprint and moves us closer to meeting the goals outlined in USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda.