New support for beginning farmers

Written by Kara Petrovic
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In an effort to help the next generation of farmers and ranchers succeed in today’s ever-changing world of agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently launched a new resource-based website.

The New Farmers website houses a variety of resources and initiatives to assist young farmers, including:

  • business plan models
  • information on how to increase access to land and capital
  • access to risk management tools
  • outreach, education and technical assistance
  • videos, blogs and case studies from farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources
  • information on loans for beginning farmers and ranchers

The New Farmers website at usda.gov/newfarmers, comes on the heels of the 2014 Farm Bill and is aimed at attracting a new generation to agriculture — dairy producers, ranchers, crop farmers and more — who want to join the industry, but are faced with numerous start-up obstacles. USDA also has the new site displayed on its homepage in hopes of directing newcomers to the federal programs available to assist young farmers.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden calls the website a “one-stop shop,” for beginners to navigate their path of creating and sustaining a profitable business operation in a volatile marketplace.

According to USDA, the average farmer is nearly 60 years old and looking to retire in the next decade. The New Farmers website houses a variety of resources and initiatives to assist young farmers, including: business-plan models; information on how to increase access to land and capital; access to risk management tools; outreach, education and technical assistance; and much more.

“New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture,” Harden previously stated. “We must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy.”

The website also includes videos, blogs and case studies from farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources, as well as information on loans for beginning farmers and ranchers.

According to Gary Matteson, vice president for young, beginning and small farmers programs and outreach at Farm Credit Council, access to land and capital are two of the biggest hurdles new farmers face. Yet thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, lending opportunities have been expanded through Farm Service Agency (FSA), which Matteson says is often deemed “the lender of first opportunity.”

Over the years, FSA has helped hundreds of young and beginning farmers and ranchers obtain loans that they typically couldn’t get from commercial lenders. 

FSA defines beginning farmers as those who cannot get credit elsewhere; have more than three but less than 10 years of operational experience; and do not own farmland in excess of 30 percent of the average farm size in the country as deemed by the Census of Agriculture. To obtain an FSA loan, beginning farmers must also agree to participate in borrower training and have sufficient education or training in managing or operating a farm.

“Farm Credit works with FSA mostly by way of farm credit guarantees,” Matteson says.