The Center for Rural Affairs praised the introduction of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, a cross-cutting initiative aimed at helping the next generation of farmers and ranchers enter into agriculture and take advantage of emerging markets. The bill is sponsored by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Representative Tim Walz (D-Minn.). Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee will introduce a companion bill in the Senate when next in session.
“This legislation is smart, cost-effective public policy that will create jobs and invest in the future of rural America,” said Traci Bruckner, assistant director for Rural Policy of the Center for Rural Affairs. “It addresses obstacles that often prevent beginning farmers and ranchers from getting their operation started.”
“As the average age of the American farmer continues to increase, it is critical for the well-being of rural America that young people engage in farming and agricultural entrepreneurship. This legislation provides common-sense incentives to young farmers and ranchers, helping overcome the initial challenges facing those who wish to establish their careers in agriculture and raise families on the farm,” said Representative Jeff Fortenberry who represents Nebraska’s first Congressional district and is a co-sponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act contains several key elements, including:
- Reauthorizing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a beginning farmer and rancher training and support initiative. It would increase mandatory funding from $75 million to $125 million over the next 5 years to help meet growing demand for the program, and include a new priority on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for military veterans.
- $30 million in annual funding for the Value Added Producer Grants Program and will retain the priority for projects benefiting beginning farmers and ranchers as well as a set-aside of program funding for these projects.
- Creating savings and enhancing lending provisions that help beginning farmers and ranchers access credit and establish a pattern of savings.
- Providing conservation incentives to assist beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to establish conservation practices and sustainable systems on their farms and ranches.