Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced a commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize $5.6 billion over the next two years within USDA programs and services that serve new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Deputy Secretary Harden also announced a new, tailored web tool designed to connect burgeoning farm entrepreneurs with programs and resources available to help them get started.
“The announcement is symbolic of the evolution of USDA’s efforts to better serve the next generation of farmers and ranchers. What began seven years ago with the recognition that the rapid aging of the American farmer was an emerging challenge, has transformed into a robust, transparent, tech-based strategy to recruit the farmers of the future,” said Harden. “No matter where you’re from, no matter what you look like, no matter your background, we want USDA to be the first stop for anyone who is looking to be a part of the story and legacy of American agriculture.”
The website was designed based on feedback from new and beginning farmers and ranchers around the country who cited unfamiliarity with programs and resources as a challenge to starting and expanding their operations. The site features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner needs to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner. By answering a series of questions about their operation, farmers can use the site’s Discovery Tool to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs.
Using the new web tool and other outreach activities, and operating within its existing resources, USDA has set a new goal of increasing beginning farmer and rancher participation by an additional 6.6 percent across key USDA programs. They were established or strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill for a total investment value of approximately $5.6 billion. Programs were targeted for expanded outreach and commitment based on their impact on expanding opportunity for new and beginning farmers and ranchers, including starting or expanding an operation, developing new markets, supporting more effective farming and conservation practices, and having access to relevant training and education opportunities. USDA will provide quarterly updates on its progress towards meeting its goal. A full explanation of the investment targets, benchmarks and outcomes is available at BFR-Commitment-Factsheet.
Deputy Secretary Harden made the announcements during remarks to more than 60,000 attendees at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.