Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011

Update: this bill has just been introduced in congress, and we're expecting it to be introduced in the Senate when they get back from recess next week. For the latest, please see this post: Exciting news! We’re currently anticipating the introduction of The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 in Congress, expected in early September, and are asking you to take action to help promote it. This important piece of legislation supports beginning farmers and ranchers in a number of ways, such as: 1.     It provides funding to organizations which train or give assistance to beginning farmers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. 2.     It includes set-asides in existing conservation and marketing programs for beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged producers. 3.     It provides beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged producers with improved access to USDA savings and credit programs. For more information on the bill, and on beginning farmer legislative issues in general, check out the following packet from a new farmer D.C. fly in June and two page outline of the beginning farmer bill We anticipate the full text of the bill will be available within days. Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Representative Tim Walz (MN) are the lead sponsors of this bill in the Senate and House, respectively.  The bill will serve as the beginning farmer agenda for the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. The beginning farmer bill is set to be introduced after Labor Day.  In the mean time, we’re working to create a wave of original co-sponsors in Congress before the bill’s introduction.  We want to ask for your help in generating co-sponsors.  Here’s what you can do: Action: Ask your two senators and one representative to co-sponsor the bill. Attached is a model letter which you can use as a template. However, writing is not the only way to request their support; you can also call their office or set up a meeting. To co-sponsor this bill, your Representative will need to contact Representative Walz’s agriculture staff and your Senators will need to contact Senator Harkin’s agriculture staff. They are: Sen. Tom Harkin: Mark Halverson, 202-224-3254 Rep. Tim Walz: Leah Rosales, 202-225-2472 We hope you call your Senators and Representative, and ask that they co-sponsor which will help us advance the opportunities available to beginning farmers and set the stage for beginning farmer provisions in the next farm bill. If you have any questions regarding this bill or how to help, please feel free to CONTACT ME (Taylor), or Adam Warthesen, Land Stewardship Policy Organizer at To see a sample letter, click READ MORE. This is just a sample, your letter will be more effective if it is personalized to the extent that is possible. Calling your senator/rep is another effective way to share this request. Ask to talk to a staff member who works on agriculture issues. If they're not there leave a message describing basically what you calling about, and ask that they call you back. If you don't get a call back in a day or two, keep calling. To find names and contact information for your elected officials click HERE.

Your Address and other contact information


Dear Senator/Representative ___________,

Agriculture is a growing and vibrant sector of our nation’s economy, yet farming and ranching as a career choice may be one of the most difficult occupations to enter. Limited access to land and markets, hyper land price inflation, high input costs, and a lack of sufficient support networks are just a few barriers new agriculture entrepreneurs face.

Despite these hurdles, people want to farm and see great opportunities in agriculture. Community organizations and institutions are seeing a wave of interest. Growing local and regional markets, alternative livestock production systems and markets, the growth in organics, and relatively good crop prices are just a few trends that have more individuals and families interested in farming or ranching.

We need a national strategy and commitment to support beginning farmers and ranchers entering agriculture. With an aging farm population and large segment of baby boomers in this economic sector considering retirement, the time is now to nurture new agriculture start-ups.

When Congress reconvenes after the August recess, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Tim Walz will introduce the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011. This is a good bill that will function as a jobs creator and an economic engine.

Ensuring a vibrant and growing agriculture sector that encourages beginning farmers to enter and allows them to succeed is important to our work. HOW YOUR WORK RELATES TO AGRICULTURE OR BEGINNING FARMER ISSUES.

We are asking you to be an original co-sponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011.

To co-sponsor this bill, contact Senator Tom Harkin or Representative Tim Walz. As we mentioned above, now is the time to support a strategy to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. We hope you can co-sponsor this bill that provides smart, cost-effective assistance to new farmers and ranchers.

We hope to follow up or hear back from you soon.

Thank you,


6 Comments on Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011

  1. Can you provide a link on the blog here to the template/model letter?

  2. We’d be happy to support this ACT if it includes solid initiatives which encourage the use of organic farming methods and actively promotes long-term small- to large-scale farming solutions which will eventually exclude the use of petroleum-based inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, etc…).

    Will this be so?

  3. As a farmer I think looking at the real reason food is so cheap and removing some of the artificial barriers that keep farmers for charging what it costs to farm at a living wage would be more beneficial than this bill. When the financial formula is right people will farm. Funding non-profits and educators which may increase production will not help the demand or value of the food to increase, if anything it may help to destroy the farmers that have held on.

    • Heide,

      I don’t disagree with you, but that’s something that’s needed to happen for the last 50 years and is not bound to change soon.

      I believe we need to do what we can to make what small changes we can to help beginning farmers today (and this bill could help in a number of ways) without losing sight of that bigger picture. Showing that we have political will, that there is a lot of support for beginning farmers and sustainable agriculture out there, and that people are willing to participate in the political process in order to promote these things can only help move us toward the larger changes you suggest in the long term.

  4. I believe that this bill will be helpful as I know how hard it is to get funding to start a farm/ranch you try many things and it seems you get a dead end answer anywhere you look.

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