Farming, Any One?
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
(Please click on red links & note magenta)
One of my old friends with Ph.D. in material science has just recently retired from having worked in semiconductor industry for three decades. Guess what, she is getting ready to become a farmer in the Eastern portion of the country! That got me curious and looked into some interesting statistics.
Did you know that the average age of U.S. farmers has grown from 50.5 years to 58.3 years during the last 3 decades? This number is based on the age of the principal operators. From 1982 to the 2007 census, “Folks just really weren’t getting into farming that much,” according to Bob Young, chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Barrier to entry is an important contributing factor keeping some young people out of farming. Land prices skyrocketed in recent years.
Equipment such as tractors combined with other farming equipment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“There are ways that folks can get into it. You can lease some land. You can borrow equipment from some body.” Young says. Young also added that being counted in the census does not require heavy investment. An operation need only to have the potential to produce $1,000 worth of agricultural goods in a year to be counted as a “farm”.
Since about half of the American farmers will be retiring in the next decade, there are now many incentive programs, both at federal and private organizations, providing grants and/or low-interest loans, helping young people to overcome the barrier to entry. For example, the BFRDP (Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program) is administered by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the USDA. The purpose of BFRDP is to provide U.S. beginning farmer and rancher producers and their families, with the skills and tools, knowledge, needed to make informed decisions for their operations.
There are also many other programs that would be helpful to new farmers and ranchers, listed below:
- Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs: it identifies Federal programs and policies related to sustainable agriculture and how they can be used by U.S. farmers and ranchers, and grassroots organizations. Program areas include: Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Conservation and Environmnet, Credit and Crop Insurance, Food Safety, Local and Regional Food Systems, Organic Production, Renewable Energy, Rural Development, and Sustainable and Organic Research.
- AgPlan: AgPlan helps rural business owners to develop business plans for agricultural, fisheries, and small businesses, free of charge, made available by University of MN. AgPlan helps future farmers and small business owners to develop their business plans by demonstrating tips, resources, and sample business plans that would be helpful.
- Start2Farm: The Start2Farm is the name of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse for new and beginning farmers. It features information and resources for training and assistance programs available throughout the United States, including those produced through NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The Start2Farm clearinghouse serves as a one-stop information source for programs and resources to start farming and to be successful in the early years as a farmer or rancher.
- USDA Rural Development Catalog of Programs: A guide to Rural Development loans, grants, and technical assistance for FL and Virgin Islands.
- B & I Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program: it helps to improve, develop, or finance business, industry, and employment and improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. This is achieved by bolstering the existing private credit structure through the guarantee of quality loans which will provide lasting community benefits.
- CIG (Conservation Innovation Grants): These grants offer two programmatic exceptions intended to encourage the participation of beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers and Indian Tribes. Up to about 10% of National CIG funds may be set aside for applicants who are beginning or limited resource farmers, ranchers, Indian Tribes, or community based organizations comprised of or representing these entities each year. The second exception allows applicants from any of the historical underserved populations to derive a higher percentage of project matching.
- EQIP(Environmental Quality Incentives Program Support for Organic Growers): Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides assistance to eligible producers for installation of conservation practices on organic or agricultural operations transitioning to organic production.
- Farm Operating Loan Program: Operating Loans may be used to purchase items such as livestock, farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel, farm chemicals, insurance, and other operating expenses. Operating Loans can also be used to pay for minor improvements to buildings, costs associated with land and water development, family subsistence, and to refinance debts under certain conditions.
- FSA Direct Farm Ownership Loan: With a Direct Farm Ownership Loan, you can purchase farmland, construct or repair buildings and other fixtures, and make farm infrastructure improvements.
- Minority and Women Farmers and Ranchers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes and guarantees loans to approved socially disadvantaged applicants to buy and operate family-size farms and ranches. A socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmer, rancher, or agricultural producer is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of his or her identity as a member of the group without regard to his or her individual qualities. SDA groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Organic Certification Cost Share Program: Organic crop and livestock producers in selected states can be reimbursed as much as 75 percent of their certification costs, up to a maximum of $750.
At this point, allow me to share a video on Sustainable Organic Farming in Florida with and by Gary Null, below:
- REAP Feasibility Study Grants: The REAP/Feasibility Grant Program provides grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. It also provides funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to conduct feasibility study for a renewable energy system.
- REAP Rural Energy For America Program: The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems such as solar panels or anaerobic digesters; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities such as installing irrigation pumps or replacing ventilation systems; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.
- REAP/EA/REDA Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant: The Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant provides grant assistance to entities that will assist agriculture producers and small rural businesses by conducting energy audits and providing information on renewable energy development assistance.
- REAP/RES/EEI Rural Energy for America Program-Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program: The REAP Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Grant and Loan Guarantee provides financial assistance to agriculture producers and rural small business to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies.
- Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative: USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service offered the seasonal high tunnels (officially called “seasonal high tunnel system for crops”) as a conservation practice for the first time in 2010 as part of a three-year trial to determine their effectiveness in conserving water, keeping nutrients in the soil, increasing yields, and reducing transport of agricultural pesticides.
- SSDPG (Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant): the primary objective of the SSDPG program is to provide technical assistance to small, socially-disadvantaged agricultural producers through eligible cooperatives and associations of cooperatives. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis.
- Farm Transition Grant Program: Producers and agriculture cooperatives may apply for this grant and may receive up to $49,999 in matching funds. A producer and an agricultural cooperative match must be at least 50% and may not include in-kind services.
- Farm Beginnings Program: This is a land stewardship project initiative that provides opportunities for beginning and transitioning farmers to learn firsthand about values clarification and goal setting, whole farm planning, business plan development, and low-cost, sustainable farming methods. It is a 12-month training session that helps beginning farmers to clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong enterprise plan and start building their operation. The course uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, and an extensive farmer network.
There are many more programs available to encourage young and/or productive people interested in learning or going into farming. As we see the need and the fact that local produce is much more energy efficient for the planet and healthier for consumers, perhaps some of our readers/viewers would be interested in contemplating a career in farming.
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