Press Release: Contact Adam Warthesen, Land Stewardship Project, policy organizer, 612-722-6377, firstname.lastname@example.org; Taylor Reid, Beginning Farmers, 517-449-2525, email@example.com
Beginning Farmer & Rancher Opportunity Act Introduced in Congress
Bipartisan bill to support Investments & job creation through beginning farmer and rancher development launched
Legislation that will help the next generation of farmers and ranchers create jobs and other economic activity in rural communities has been introduced in U.S. House and is expected in the Senate soon. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 is authored by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) in the House and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in Senate.
This legislation is a comprehensive policy approach to helping the next generation of farmers and ranchers take advantage of growing opportunities in agriculture. The legislation includes support for beginning farmer and rancher training programs, beginning farmer lending and savings provisions and conservation incentives for new farmers and ranchers.
“We have to make sure America’s next generation of family farmers have the support they need to continue providing a safe, abundant food supply,” said Rep. Walz. “This legislation is a smart, effective way to support our local economies and create local jobs.”
A central component of the bill is continued support for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which supports community-based organizations doing beginning farmer training programs. Since it was launched in 2009, demand for BFRDP has far outstripped resources available. In 2010 alone, 40 projects got a total of $18 million in BFRDP grants, while 117 applications were submitted that year, with a total funding request of approximately $65 million. In total, during the past three years the program has provided $54 million in grants to groups in 48 states.
Beginning farmer Katie Felland and her family operate O-Wata-Farm, which produces eggs, apples, pumpkins, berries and popcorn near Owatonna, Minn. In 2008, Felland graduated from Farm Beginnings, a Land Stewardship Project program that trains new farmers in innovative marketing, business planning and management techniques.
“Networking and connecting to farmers and others through community based programs like Farm Beginnings was invaluable to helping us get started in farming,” said Land Stewardship Project member, Felland, 39. “We hope to grow our farm in the future, and getting support and assistance from community groups we know can be effective. That’s partly why this legislation makes sense—it provides community-based groups resources to work on local issues new farmers face.”
Tyler Benson, who raises crops and cattle near Rushford, Minn., said that a Farm Service Agency beginning farmer loan he received has been key in getting his operation started. Demand for beginning farmer loans has been high. In 2010, nearly 14,000 loans were made or guaranteed by USDA for beginning farmers representing a loan volume total of $1.5 billion.
“Access to capital is a must for beginning farmers,” said Land Stewardship Project member, Benson, 26. “These programs are good investments—new farmers are new jobs. They buy products and supplies for their business and create economic activity. We need more of that in rural America.”
To read the full bill: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011: H.R. 3236; for a short summary of the bill and history: http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/programs_bfroa.html
To support this effort, please call your Congressperson and let them know you support H.R. 3236 – The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011. Find them and their contact information at: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
And for more information read this blog post:http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/new-farmer-bill-introduced/