Cultivating the Next Generation of Farmers

Reprinted from Morning Ag Clips, August 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is the only U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program specifically dedicated to training and supporting the next generation of America’s farmers and ranchers. With the average age of the American farmer steadily rising, it is now more important than ever that young and beginning farmers and ranchers receive the training and support they need to thrive.

This week, USDA announced $18 million in federal grant funding to be invested in 37 projects across the country, which help to “educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers”.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), which issues an annual progress report on BFRDP in conjunction with the Land Stewardship Project, applauds USDA’s prioritization of community-based and non-profit organizations in this year’s funding cycle.

“Community-based and non-profit organizations have played a vital role in developing innovative training programs specifically targeted to new farmers over the past decade,” said Juli Obudzinski, NSAC Senior Policy Specialist. “If we’re creating programs to foster the next generation of farmers and ranchers, we absolutely have to involve them at every stage. Community-based organizations are also often farmer-based. They are skilled at facilitating engagement with both farmers and other rural stakeholders, and we are excited to see these projects being prioritized by USDA.”

In total, 29 of the 37 projects funded by USDA this year will be led by community-based and non-profit organizations. University partners will lead the remaining 8. While USDA is required by statute to prioritize funding for projects that “partner with” community-based and non-profit organizations, they have not always prioritized projects led by them.

NSAC congratulates all of the grant recipients, especially the hard-working and dedicated farmer-based organizations who work directly with beginning farmers and ranchers every day. NSAC member organizations receiving awards include:

Agriculture and Land Based Training Association, California
Angelic Organics Learning Center, Illinois
Future Harvest CASA, Maryland
Just Food, New York
Land Stewardship Project, Minnesota
National Center for Appropriate Technology, Arkansas/Montana
National Young Farmers Coalition, New York
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio

NSAC itself was also a grant recipient this year, and will lead the first ever comprehensive evaluation of BFRDP funded projects to date (in partnership with NSAC member organizations and academic evaluation partners). This project will help USDA, advocacy organizations, and rural communities to better understand the short, medium and long-term outcomes and impacts of BFRDP. As interest in new farmer training continues to grow and existing funds are stretched to their limits, it is imperative that policymakers and practitioners alike understand how to make this program as effective and successful as possible. It is our hope that this analysis will provide this clarity and showcase the importance of this unique program to the future of American agriculture.

Abstracts for this year’s funded projects can be viewed on NIFA’s reporting website.

–National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
– See more at: https://www.morningagclips.com/cultivating-the-next-generation/#sthash.qjGKewKM.dpuf

Leave a Reply