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