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USDA announces beginning farmer awards

by Chris Hinyub, published

The average age of farmers and ranchers in America is increasing, and rural populations are in decline. This is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is acting to plant a new crop of much needed agricultural producers here in California and across the nation.


Last week, Ag Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced this year's winners of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) 'Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program' (BFRDP). According to a NIFA news release, a total of $18 million in grants was given to 36 organizations that:


     “implement education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer.”


Agricultural groups in California received the largest share of the subsidies. Just over $3 million was distributed accordingly:


Sustainable Agriculture Education, Berkeley, was granted $207,204 for a project that will provide limited resource, immigrant and socially-disadvantaged farmers with an education and outreach program including workshops, field days, follow-up consultations, and mentoring and networking opportunities with producers and advisors.


University of California, Berkeley, received $745,506 to train minority, immigrant and limited-resource farmers and ranchers on sustainable production, food safety, financial literacy and market linking.


University of California, Oakland, was given $702,592 for its AGROpreneurship project, which addresses barriers to beginning farmers who wish to start and sustain successful farming and ranching businesses in Sonoma County.


Center of Race, Poverty and the Environment, San Francisco, received $50,000 to build out a project model for training hundreds of beginning farmers in the South San Joaquin Valley on successful and sustainable farming practices while also creating community gardens, co-operatives and small-scale farms.


International Rescue Committee, San Diego, was awarded $644,244 for a project that will develop innovative business and marketing models for urban farming and microenterprise in food and farming that can be adopted by many ethnic immigrant communities as well as lower-income residents in urban communities.


California FarmLink, Santa Rosa, garnered $675,750 for an educational enhancement team project that will join with two other groups to establish an educational community of groups serving beginning farmers through Individual Development Account asset-building strategies, improving the groups’ existing programs service delivery and project structure.


     “Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges, and these grants will provide needed training to help these producers become profitable and sustainable,” said Merrigan. “American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in America, a critical contribution to the strength and prosperity of the country. The sheer productivity of our farmers has given Americans access to a cheap, wholesome food supply and provides us with more discretionary income than much of the rest of the world. But our farmers are aging, and more of our young people are looking outside of farming for their careers. It's time to reverse these trends, keep farmers on the farm and help beginning farmers and ranchers thrive in their careers.”


Projects were awarded in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. At least 25 percent of the program's funding goes to support limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in agriculture, says NIFA.


The BFRDP was established through the 2008 Farm Bill. Another $18 million has been allocated for the program's 2012 fiscal year. More information on the BFRDP is available on NIFA's website. A full list of grant recipients can be found online here.

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