Message: I want Senator __________ to make the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program a top priority and to ensure it is funded at $25 million a year in the Farm Bill. We need to invest in support for new farmers because they are the future of American agriculture, which is an important part of the U.S. economy. (Or feel free to use your own words). When you call, it’s best to try and contact the staff member responsible for agriculture issues if you can. If they are not available, make sure to leave a message with the receptionist. Let them know what organization you’re with and where you’re from. Additional Background on BFRDP: One of the most successful beginning farmer and rancher initiatives out of the 2008 Farm Bill, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), provides grants to community organizations and educational institutions to assist and support beginning farmers and ranchers. Essentially, BFRDP matches federal resources with local, state and regionally based networks and partnerships to provide education, training and support for beginning farmers and ranchers. The competitive grant program is administered through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and offered on a yearly basis. The 2008 Farm Bill provided $75 million in mandatory funding for the program over the four-year period from 2009-2012. Entities eligible to apply for funding include: state cooperative extension services; relevant USDA, state, and tribal agencies; community-based and non-governmental organizations; colleges or universities (including community colleges, land grant institutions, etc); and other appropriate partners, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture. To date, nearly 330 institutions and groups have applied for this program in just the first three years. However, program funding has only been made available to 32 percent of applicants who applied for funding. BFRDP has offered a total of 105 grants and nearly $53 million to awarded projects. For more on the BFRDP and program analysis, see the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program: 2011 Progress Report. Investing in the future of American Agriculture: Beginning Farm & Rancher Opportunity Act Over the past year, beginning farmer supporters have advanced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. This legislation has 20 House co-sponsors and 12 Senate co-sponsors and is authored by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) in the House and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate. Included in the legislation that supporters hope to cement in the 2012 Farm Bill are provisions aimed at: Enabling access to land, credit and crop insurance for new producers; Assisting new producers in launching and strengthening new farm and value-added businesses; Helping new producers become good land stewards; Providing training, mentoring and research that beginning farmers and ranchers need to be successful (BFRDP); Conducting outreach on agricultural job opportunities for military veterans. Please, make your call today!The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program has no funding past 2012. As Senate Farm Bill proceeds, it is still unclear if any resources will be dedicated to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The only indication we have to go on is what happened in the proposed “Secret Farm Bill” within the failed Super Committee process last fall. In the “Secret Farm Bill” only $10 million a year was provided to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. That would be a 47 percent decrease compared to what was offered for the program this year and represents a massive cut to the program overall. We cannot allow this to happen in the Senate Farm Bill. U.S. Senators need to hear from organizations, farmers, and indivuduals about the need for making real investments in beginning farmer support. Ask your Senator to secure these resources that maintain and grow training and assistance for our next generation of American farmers and ranchers. To contact your Senator, use the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at: 202-224-3121.