Beginning farmers can now apply for a new mentorship program thanks to a partnership between the USDA and SCORE. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with officials from SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to provide resources for beginning ranchers, veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans and others, as well as offer new tools to help them both grow and thrive in agri-business.
“Shepherding one generation to the next is our responsibility. We want to help new farmers, veterans, and people transitioning from other industries to agriculture,” said Secretary Perdue. “They need land, equipment, and access to capital, but they also need advice and guidance. That’s what SCORE is all about.”
SCORE matches business professionals and entrepreneurs with new business owners to mentor them through the process of starting-up and maintaining a new business. USDA and its partners across rural America are working with SCORE to support new farming and ranching operations, and identify and recruit mentors with a wealth of agricultural experience.
Secretary Perdue announced the new partnership in Des Moines during the Iowa Agriculture Summit. Perdue was joined by Steve Records, Vice-President of Field Operations for SCORE in signing a Memorandum of Understanding that will guide USDA and SCORE as they partner in the mentorship effort, which will soon expand to other states.
“SCORE’s mission to help people start and grow vibrant small businesses is boosted by this new partnership with USDA. America’s farmers, ranchers, and agri-businesses will benefit from the business knowledge and expertise SCORE can offer,” said Records. “The partnership allows both SCORE and USDA to serve more people while providing America’s farmers added support to lead to more sound business operations, create profitable farms with sustainable growth, and create new jobs. We are excited at the opportunity to extend SCORE’s impact to our farmers and the agriculture industry.”
SCORE mentors will partner with USDA and a wide array of groups already hard at work serving new and beginning farmers and ranchers, such as the FFA, 4-H, cooperative extension and land grant universities, nonprofits, legal aid groups, banks, technical and farm advisors. These partnerships will expand and integrate outreach and technical assistance between current and retired farmers and agri-business experts and new farmers.
This joint initiative leverages SCORE’s 10,000 existing volunteer mentors and USDA’s expertise and presence in agricultural communities to bring no-cost business mentoring to rural and agricultural entrepreneurs. This initiative will also be another tool to empower the work of many community-based organizations, cooperative extension, and land grant universities working with beginning farmers in their communities. SCORE mentorship will also be available to current farmers and ranchers. Anyone interested in being a mentor can get more information and sign up on the USDA New Farmers’ website.