Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of $19 million in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) — a program that provides competitive U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to community organizations, farm and ranch groups and academic institutions to provide education, outreach, training and technical assistance to beginning farmers, ranchers and foresters.
Applications for the funding rounds announced in April are due on June 12, 2014. For more information on eligibility and how to apply, go to Grants on the USDA website.
“As the average age of farmers continues to rise, we have no time to lose in getting more new farmers and ranchers established,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Reauthorizing and expanding the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is one of the many resources the 2014 Farm Bill gave us to build America's agricultural future."
According to Traci Bruckner of the Center for Rural Affairs, the BFRDP grant program is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which awards the grants through a competitive review process to organizations and institutions conducting programs to help beginning farmers, ranchers and foresters. “The programs funded through this initiative have had a real impact across rural and small-town America,” said Bruckner. This is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
The presence of the education, outreach, training and technical assistance programs funded by BFRDP is one of the reasons Nebraska saw an increase in young, beginning farmers and ranchers in the recent Census of Agriculture, Bruckner added.
Bruckner explained further that, in Nebraska, nearly 1,000 more farmers claim farming or ranching as their primary occupation than in the last census. For “years on present farm,” Nebraska grew in every category, from two years or less to 10 years or more. In particular, farmer and rancher numbers grew in lower age brackets. The under-25-years category grew by 18 percent; those aged 25 to 34 grew by 13 percent (up nationally as well), and farmers aged 35 to 44 grew by 10 percent.
Visit the USDA website to apply for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.