Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

Land Stweardship Project and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Progress Report Summary
By CFJC Intern Chris Jadallah
June 2015 

According to a recent report put out by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) with support from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the average American farmer is 58 years old. Encouraging more people to enter farming is critically important so as to ensure vitality and resiliency in our economy’s agricultural sector. Beginning farmers have unique educational, training, technical assistance, and outreach needs. Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) to provide grants to organizations for education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers. Since its beginning in 2009, BFRDP has directed more than $90 million to projects across the country.

Authorizing legislation in the Farm Bill stipulates that grant priority be given to partnerships and collaborations led by or including nongovernmental, community-based organizations (CBOs) and school-based agricultural educational organizations. It also stipulates that at least five percent of the funds will support programs and services that address the needs of limited resource beginning farmers or ranchers and at least five percent of the funds will support programs and services that address the needs of veteran farmers and ranchers.

After being reauthorized in 2014, the BFRDP awarded $18 million in funding grants for that fiscal year. New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer issued a press release stating, “the funding will help farmers and ranchers gain necessary skills and knowledge to become successful in agriculture. Important investments like this one will help farmers start out strong so they can build successful and lucrative farming operations that grow the local economy.”

On June 3, 2015 CFJC’s partners at LSP and NSAC released a collaborative report measuring the success of BFRDP. The report noted that in 2014, less then half of BFRDP funding went to projects led by CBOs and for the first time since 2009 the bulk of funding was awarded to projects led by universities and academic institutions. In a press release, policy program organizer Megan Buckingham at the Land Stewardship Project comments that “[CBOs] are positioned to be representative to emerging communities of new farmers and new markets, and to build the infrastructure needed to the success and ongoing development of these new farmers over time.” She also notes that CBOs excel at innovating culturally appropriate and community appropriate education. Their report recommends that in future funding cycles, BFRDP award the majority of funds to CBOs, dedicate at least 65% of total grants to community-based organizations, and more evenly distribute larger grants among universities and CBOs. CFJC supports the report’s recommendations of ensuring grant priority for CBOs to promote their innovative and community-driven work.

CFJC was happy to see increased funding directed toward BFRDP in the 2014 Farm Bill. Programs such as this is critical to building and supporting our farmers and farming communities. Additionally we want to highlight out concern for the decreased investment in the successful Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (the 2501 program). This program opens the doors of the USDA to thousands of producers from traditionally underserved populations who would contribute to the base of their local economies and provide fresh food to diverse communities across the nation. In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress provided 2501 with direct funding of $75 million for four years. The final 2014 Farm Bill expanded the program to include Veteran Farmers and Ranchers yet reduced direct funding by almost half, to only $10 million annually. Along with our partners at the Rural Coalition and NSAC, we believe underinvestment in 2501 will ultimately shortchange our nation’s most vulnerable farmers. CFJC hope to see continued support for beginning farmers through BFRDP along with increased support of socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers through 2501.

 

References

“Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.” National Institute of Food and Agriculture. US Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program: 2014 Progress Report. Rep. The Land Stewardship Project, June 2015. Web.

Buckingham, Megan. “BFRDP: Making the Most of Public Support for Beginning Farmer Education.” Web log post. Land Stewardship Project. N.p., 3 June 2015. Web.

The Office of Kirsten Gillibrand. Schumer, Gillibrand Announce More Than $740,000 In USDA Funding To Support Beginning Farmers Program At Stone Barns In Westchester. Kirsten Gillibrand – United States Senator for New York. N.p., 3 Feb. 2015. Web.

“Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501).” Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, n.d. Web.

Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers. Program brief. Washington, DC: Rural Coalition, 2014. Print.