Beginning farmers are getting a boost thanks to $17.7 million in funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The funding will support the delivery of education, mentoring, and technical assistance programs that help beginning farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and its territories. Funding is made through NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“BFRDP helps beginning farmers and ranchers improve their success in farming, ranching, and management of nonindustrial private forest lands,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA funds support projects that give beginning farmers the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to make informed decisions for their operations, and to enhance their profitability and sustainability.”
BFRDP targets farmers and ranchers who have never operated a farm or ranch, or have not operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years. BFRDP sets aside a portion of funding for projects that address the needs of two subsets of beginning farmers and ranchers:
- At least 5 percent of the program’s funds will be allocated to address the limited resource needs of beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged beginning farmers or ranchers, and/or farm workers, to include immigrants, desiring to become beginning farmers or ranchers.
- At least 5 percent will be allocated to address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers who are military veterans.
The deadline for applications is Feb. 8, 2018, at 5 p.m. Eastern time. See the request for applications for details.
Since 2009, NIFA has invested more than $143 million in nearly 300 projects through BFRDP. Among previously funded projects, Hmong American Partnership in St. Paul, Minnesota, built economic prosperity for new Americans, immigrants, and refugee populations through business development and entrepreneurship opportunities. In three years, more than 700 farmers have attended their classes and workshops.
New Mexico State University funded the Southern Pueblo Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program to meet the individual production, marketing, and financing needs of American Indian beginning farmers and ranchers of the Southern Pueblos in central New Mexico. Participating farmers employed new strategies to improve soil fertility and increased crop yields by 20 percent, adding up to $4,000 in farm income per farm. In addition, many beginning ranchers were taught Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program practices. BQA-certified ranchers generally improve average sales by 12 percent – about $9,500 per rancher.