Don't cut funding for beginning farmer training programs!
As of October 1st, funding for the most important federal program to train the next generation of American farmers ran dry. If Congress doesn't act quickly when it returns in November, this program, and the invaluable support it gives, could disappear forever.
In 2012 alone, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program funded forty training programs that provided new farmers the business and technical skills that they need to build successful, independent farms. Don't let programs like these fall by the wayside – we need to protect the BFRDP!
With an unprecedented number of American farmers expected to retire in the next twenty years, the nation needs this federal program – and the thousands of new farmers it supports.
We need Congress to continue funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program in any Farm Bill extension that they pass, and to fund this program at $25 million a year in the next Farm Bill.
We also need to support historically underrepresented farmers with funding set-asides and to keep grant-matching requirements at 25%, enabling participation by community based organizations. Sign now - don't let this vital program be lost forever.
By signing this petition, you will help ensure programs like these continue to serve the beginning farmers of America:
- Creating Beginning Farmer Opportunities in Farm Worker Communities in Salinas, CA
- Preparing A New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers, in Urbana, IL
- Growing New Women Farmers in Iowa and Nebraska Through Networking, Mentorships, and Business Planning, in Story City, IA
- Lansing Roots: Beginning Farmer Training Program, in Lansing, MI
- Developing a Solid Foundation for Imigrant Farm Workers Transitioning to Farm Operations, in WA
Read the entire list of 40 programs here.
In the last four years, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program has become one of the most important ways that the federal government ensures that new farmers have the business and technical education they need to grow food for their community and make a livable income. Given that the average age of American farmers is 57, we have an urgent need to nurture and advocate for beginners, just starting out, so that they can learn from the retiring generation and take their place when the time is right.
This USDA program has fostered the development of the New American Sustainable Agriculture Program (NASAP) based in Portland, ME that provides training and technical assistance for immigrants looking to start agricultural businesses;
the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) in Story City, IA (the only network in the Midwest that operates to assist women entering the field of diversified agriculture);
Growing Power, of Milwaukee, WI, (a group that aims to train over 6,000 beginning farmers with its 2012 BFRDP grant), to name a few. There are countless examples of this USDA program enriching the potential of future farmers, and with them, the agricultural future of our country.
I understand that Congress is looking to cut federal spending, but the BFRDP is not a program we can afford to sacrifice. I ask you to support the $85 million over five years—the allocation that the Senate has already passed. I further ask that you continue to set aside 25% for farmers who are historically under-served or military veterans, and that you enable community based organizations to participate by continuing the 25% match requirement for grantees.
Our country was founded with a strong agricultural tradition; it is up to you to uphold that legacy by supporting future generations of American farmers and ranchers.