Letter to Congress In Support of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

October 10, 2013

Dear U.S. House and Senate Committee Leaders:

The agricultural sector of our economy continues to be vibrant and strong. In recent years, there has been an uptick in individuals and families interested in building careers in farming or ranching. Despite significant hurdles such as limited access to affordable land, high start-up costs, and lack of training, there are hard-working and talented people who want to start their own farm or ranch businesses.

With the appropriate policies in a 2013 Farm Bill, you can support successful new farmer start-ups and also mitigate some of the major obstacles new producers confront. By supporting new farmer opportunities with public policy we can strengthen the economic base and vitality of many of our rural and urban communities. As you begin conference negotiations on a new farm bill, we urge you to build upon the best provisions in existing bills to adopt the strongest possible measures for new and aspiring farmers. These include:

Supporting New Farmer Training Through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)

1. Sustain needed funding at no less than $20 million per year. Funding for this program has been absent since 2012 and without future investments we risk losing the focus and base of organizations and institutions assisting tens of thousands of beginning farmers across the country.

2. Refrain from creating a “state grants” subsection within the BFRDP focused solely on farm safety. While farm safety is an important training effort, it should be integrated into the existing purposes for which grants can be offered to groups, rather than prioritized in a block-grant that would divert funding away from the thirteen other critical program purposes.

3. Ensure a set-aside of 25 percent of yearly funds is available for socially disadvantaged producers, limited resource producers and military veterans. This set-aside has been a critical component of the program since its inception and is important in ensuring diverse and broad populations have access to this program.

Expanding Access to Farmland, Credit and Conservation Assistance

1. Provide $50 million for the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program which allows new producers and retiring landowner to collaborate to make more farm and ranch land available.

2. Prioritize conservation easements at agricultural use value for beginning farmers through the Agricultural Land Easement Program in order to increase the availability of affordable land, especially in areas facing growing development pressure.

3. Authorize a microloan program, including intermediary lending, in order to expand credit options and simplify the Farm Service Agency loan application process for new farmers.

4. Increase the advance payment option within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which would make it easier and financially viable for a new farmer to adopt conservation practices on their operations.

Additionally, we encourage provisions that ensure outreach to our nation’s military veterans interested in starting farming as well as robust funding for outreach and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

This farm bill process has already dragged on for far too long. Every day Congress fails to proceed forward with a bill is a day we miss the opportunity to make better investments in the next generation of American farmers and ranchers – this delay has both short-term on long-term consequences for our communities. We urge you to move deliberately and swiftly in finalizing a farm bill that incorporates these beginning farmer measures.

Sincerely,

Agribusiness Incubator Program
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association
Alden Economic Development Committee
Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Beau Chemin Preservation Farm
Beginning Farmers LLC
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association
California Certified Organic Farmers
California FarmLink
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Catholic Charities of Louisville, Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Center for Rural Affairs
Chicago Botanic Garden
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Community CROPS
Community Food & Agriculture Coalition
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Cultivate Kansas City
Cultivating Community
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship
Dakota Rural Action
Delta Land & Community
Earth Learning
Ecological Farming Association
Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm
Family Farm Defenders
Farley Center Farm Incubator Farm
Fresh Rhode Island
Farmer Veteran Coalition
Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc
FARRMS
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
Finger Lakes – Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training
Food & Water Watch
Food Democracy Now!
Food Field
Food Works
Georgia Organics
GoFarm Hawaii
Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming
Hawthorne Valley Farm
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Hope Farms/Bethany Christian Services
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Living Services of Northern California
Institute for Washington’s Future
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Farmers Union
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Just Food KAKOO OIWI
Kansas Rural Center
Kauai Community College Kerr Center Inc.
Land For Good
Land Stewardship Project
Leeward Community College
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Local Food Hub
Lowcountry
Local First Lutheran Social Services/New Lands Farm
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine Rural Partners
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan Food and Farming Systems
Michigan Land Use Institute
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service
Minnesota Citizens Organized Acting Together
Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Food Association
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Farmers Organization
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Women In Agriculture Association
National Young Farmers Coalition
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society INC-NSAS
New England Farmers Union
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
New Farmers Network
New York Bee Wellness
North Country Sustainability Center
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council
Northeast Organic Farming Association, New Hampshire
Northeast Organic Farming Association, New York
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Rhode Island
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Vermont
Northeast Pasture Consortium
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG)
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group
Northwest Michigan Council of Governments
Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Oklahoma Farm and Food Alliance
Okmulgee County Farmers and Ranchers
Onslow County Farmers Market, Inc
Oregon Tilth
Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success
PMJ Capital Corporation
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery
Pushing the Envelope Farm
Rogue Farm Corps
Root ‘N Roost Farm
Rural Advancement Foundation International School Food FOCUS National
Seattle Tilth
Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Slow Food California
Slow Food Nebraska
Slow Food USA
Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership Inc.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Stoneyfield Farm
Sustainable Farming Association
SustainFloyd
Texas Mexico Border Coalition CBO
The Brice Institute
The Land Connection
Tilth Producers of Washington
Truly Living Well
United Farmers USA
Vermont Land Trust
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Viva Farms
Walk Farm, Incorporated
Washington Young Farmers Coalition
Wisconsin Farmers Union Women, Food and Agriculture Network
World Farmers Inc
Wren’s Nest Farm