Harden made the announcement at the inaugural meeting of the reconvened Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee in Davis, California. The advisory committee started in 1998 and met annually, but has not been functioning since 2010 and is now being restarted.
She also unveiled USDA’s New Farmers website, which provides a centralized one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives that are designed to help their operations thrive.
The website includes information on how to increase access to land and capital, create new market opportunities, participate in conservation opportunities, utilize risk management tools, and access USDA technical assistance programs. The new site also features case studies that illustrate how beginning farmers have successfully used USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.
In speaking of the critical need for more beginning farmers throughout the country, Deputy Secretary Harden explained, “The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain and strong agricultural economy. The new policies announced today will give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed”
Harden announced the implementation of several policy initiatives in the 2014 Farm Bill that help create opportunities for the next generation of farmers. These policy announcements include:
- Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enrol in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), which provides provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product. The waiver begins with the 2014 crop year, and farmers and ranchers who already enrolled are eligible for a service fee refund.
- Eliminating Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payment reductions for grazing for new and beginning farmers. This will allow routine, prescribed, and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled CRP land when consistent with approved conservation plans. Farmers and ranchers grazing on CRP land have been subject to a reduction in CRP payments up to 25 percent, and waiving these reductions for beginning farmers will provide financial support during times of drought and other natural disasters.
- Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). Under ELAP, beginning farmers and ranchers can now claim up to 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, such as bees, which is a 50 percent increase over payments that were previously available to beginning farmers.
USDA will continue to announce additional farm bill crop insurance improvements for beginning farmers and ranchers, including discounted premiums, the waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits.
A fact sheet outlining USDA efforts to support beginning farmers and ranchers is available here. More resources are available through the New Farmers website and others will be announced in the near future.