The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Merrigan announces $18 million for new farmer training

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today that USDA has awarded 36 grants totaling $18 million to organizations that will provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them run successful and sustainable farms.

The grants will go to groups in 21 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands that can help people who want to go into farming but do not know much about the business or marketing side.

“You can’t just love the soil. You have to love the accounting and books as well,” Merrigan said in a call to reporters today.

Merrigan noted that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which was established through the 2008 farm bill. Although a lot of the focus is on young farmers, Merrigan noted that USDA defines beginning farmers as anyone who has been in farming or ranching for 10 years or less, and that there are many people who want to make farming a second career.

At least 25 percent of the program’s funding supports the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in farming and ranching.

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.

While many of the grants went to groups in areas where land is expensive and production is likely to be in fruits and vegetables, the Farm Credit Council, which represents farm credit institutions in Washington, got $675,109 to improve programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers of all types with financial education and to enhance their success.

Other awardees include:
  • The University of California at Berkeley, which got $745,506 to train minority, immigrant and limited-resource farmers and ranchers on sustainable production, food safety, financial literacy and market linking.
  • The Stone Barns Stone Barns Restoration Corporation, in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., which got $735,130 to provide workshops, conferences, apprenticeships, online resources and mentoring services for more than 1,200 beginning farmers by 2014.
  • Iowa State University, which got $675,750 to develop a course to engage more women farmers and ranchers in implementing successful farm transitions.
  • Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas, which got $598,616 to equip beginning farmers and ranchers to use online marketing tools such as Facebook.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture FY 2011 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grants