More than $18 million in grants has been earmarked for new farmers and ranchers in 24 states. The funds will go to organizations that assist beginners in agriculture with training and resources.
Funneled through the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program established in 2008, the grants will help implement education and training programs, as well as technical assistance and outreach programs, for those who have been farming or ranching for fewer than 10 years. A quarter of the grants will support those who are just beginning in the industry and those who have limited resources or are socially disadvantaged.
During its first year, the program offered three-year grants to 5,000 farmers and ranchers. In 2011, the training supported by the grants reached more than 38,000 people.
The USDA defines beginning farmers as those with fewer than 10 years experience, and the demographic includes every age, race and ethnicity, as well as both genders. At this time, 30 percent of farm operators are 65 years of age or older, with the average age climbing from 54 in 1997 to 57 in 2007.
The top challenges facing beginning farmers include the opportunity to purchase or rent land and having the capital to acquire enough land to make a profitable operation.
For more information on the BFRDP, and for a list of fiscal year 2012 awards, visit USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.