November 10, 2011
Harkin Proposes Extending and Improving USDA Assistance to Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
Legislation builds on successful initiatives he pushed in farm bills
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced legislation to extend, improve and strengthen programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that have proven successful in helping beginning farmers and ranchers continue, start and build family farming and ranching operations, which are vitally important to rural communities and the entire nation. The bill’s features include helping beginning farmers and ranchers obtain education and training, necessary financial resources and credit, assistance for practicing sound conservation in their operations, and adequate income insurance and risk management.
“One of the most hopeful occurrences in rural America is when someone is able to get started in farming or ranching and go on to build a successful operation,” Harkin said. “We need more beginning farmers and ranchers in America to secure critical supplies of food, fuel, and fiber for the future; to care for and conserve our soil, water, and other natural resources; and to join in the life of healthy and vibrant local communities.”
The legislation introduced today by Senator Harkin:
•Extends and strengthens the beginning farmer and rancher development program, enacted in the 2008 farm bill, which provides competitively-awarded grants to qualified organizations that deliver training and education for beginning farmers and ranchers. The bill also makes it a priority for USDA to issue grants to support agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training for military veterans and to deliver training and education to help veterans who are beginning farmers and ranchers.
•Enhances USDA initiatives enabling beginning farmers and ranchers to assemble the financial resources they need to start and build a successful operation. It creates a microloan program in which young beginning farmers and ranchers who qualify could borrow up to $35,000 for operating expenses at reduced interest rates and with simplified paperwork, promotes savings for investment by beginning farmers and ranchers through individual development savings accounts, and updates and improves USDA programs that help beginning farmers and ranchers obtain loans for operating expenses, land purchases, and applying conservation practices.
•Strengthens assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers for maintaining and adopting sound conservation practices in their operations through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and on land that is coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
•Increases opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers to obtain grants from USDA to help them create income-producing enterprises by adding value to agricultural commodities.
•Helps beginning farmers and ranchers obtain better crop and revenue insurance policies and apply risk management in their businesses.
“Across America, we are fortunate to have many families and individuals who possess the ability, motivation, and dedication to start or continue a farm or ranch and build a rewarding life in agriculture,” Harkin said. “This legislation will help more beginning farmers and ranchers find opportunities across all types of operations – including commercial-scale crop and animal agriculture systems, organic agriculture, growing for local food systems and farmers markets, and even farming in urban and suburban areas.”
Cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Casey (D-PA), Tester (D-MT), Brown (D-OH), Leahy (D-VT), Franken (D-MN), Bingaman (D-NM), Klobuchar (D-MN), Johnson (D-SD), and Boxer (D-CA).