Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program – Stakeholder Input Wanted

Invitation to provide input to Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

From: Jill Auburn, National Program Leader, Division of Agricultural Systems, Institute of Food Production & Sustainability USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Deadline for written input: July 3, 2014

Deadline to sign up for June 26 oral input: June 24, 2014

The USDA is seeking stakeholder input to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), from applicants to the program; national, State, tribal and local organizations and others who operate beginning farmer and rancher programs; farmers and ranchers involved in beginning farmer and rancher training programs; and any other interested individuals or organizations.   Stakeholder input is welcome at any time, but to be incorporated into planning for the 2015 cycle, it should be sent by July 3, 2014, via email tobfrdp@nifa.usda.gov (please put “comments” in the subject line) or via fax to 202/401-6070 addressed to BFRDP Program Staff.

We are interested in stakeholder input on features of the program that might be improved, while staying within the limits specified by Congress as amended in the 2014 Agriculture Act.  We are also seeking input on features of the Request for Applications and the application process that could be clarified or improved, including the timing of the application and award cycle.

We invite written input as noted above, or oral input via a stakeholder input telephone conference call from 2-4pm EDT on Thursday, June 26, 2014.  The number for the call is 888-844-9904, participant code 6824450#.  Stakeholders can reserve in advance a three-minute time slot to provide oral comments (first-come, first-served), by contacting Omar Lugo at olugo@nifa.usda.gov or 202/401-6303 by close of business on June 24, 2014.  Once all those who have reserved time have spoken, if time remains, comments of up to 3 minutes each will then be invited from those without reserved times.

Background for stakeholders providing input:

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program assists new farmers and ranchers through competitive grants to collaborations of organizations that use the grant funds to offer education, outreach, mentoring, and technical assistance programs to beginning farmers and ranchers.

From 2009-2012, NIFA made 145 BFRDP awards totaling $71.5 million, taking place in nearly every state.  Approximately half of those projects are still underway, scheduled for completion either this summer (those funded in 2011) or summer of 2015 (those funded in 2012).   Program data that we gather from grantees indicates that over 50,000 new farmers and ranchers have participated in BFRDP-funded programs; that a majority (80-85%) gain knowledge and skills; and many take action as a result: 57% of those reporting changed farming practices and 26% changed business practices within one year after training.

In the 2014 Agriculture Act, Congress re-funded the program at $100 million over five years, with some changes.  For 2014 awards, NIFA released a Request for Applications (RFA) for proposals due June 12, 2014. We held two webinars for applicants, and posted recordings of them on the program web site.  We plan to hold the review panels in late summer, notify applicants in early fall, and have funds in the hands of successful applicants by year’s end.   For 2015, we aim to advance the cycle so that the review panels are not meeting during the peak growing season, and so that awards are made earlier in the year.

See http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/bfrdp/bfrdp.html for the BFRDP Authorizing Legislation, the 2014 RFA, Webinar recordings, Results and Impacts from the first round of grants, and more.

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