$17 million in grants for beginning producers

Nov 6, 2009
by WLJ
$17 million in grants for beginning producers

USDA announced the award of more than $17 million in grants to 29 institutions to address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers and enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.

“Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges and need educational and training programs to enhance their profitability and long term sustainability,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “The training and education provided through these grants will help ensure the success of the next generation of farmers and ranchers as they work to feed people in their local communities and throughout the world.”

Merrigan announced the funding in Elgin, MN, at the Hidden Stream Farm and was joined by representatives from the Land Stewardship Project, the local grant recipient that provides local and regional training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives that address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers. Eric and Lisa Klein, the proprietors of Hidden Stream Farm, were some of the first graduates of the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings course. Since graduating from Farm Beginnings, the Kleins have developed a thriving pasture-based livestock operation that markets pork, chickens and beef in southeast Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

The grants were awarded through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA, formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). BFRDP is an educational, training, technical assistance and outreach program designed to help U.S. farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer. Congress authorized the FY 2009 funding for this program in the 2008 Farm Bill, with another $19 million in mandatory funding for FY 2010. Under the program, USDA will make grants to organizations that will implement programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers.

Beginning farmers and ranchers interested in participating in any of the education, outreach, mentoring and/or internship activities are asked to contact the grantee institutions listed on the NIFA Web site. — WLJ