Vilsack announces millions for beginning farmer, rancher programs in 27 states | TSLN.com

Vilsack announces millions for beginning farmer, rancher programs in 27 states

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today USDA would provide $17.8 million for 37 beginning farmer and rancher programs in 27 states.

The grants awarded today apparently are part of $5.6 billion over the next two years within programs and services that serve new and beginning farmers and ranchers, according to a USDA news release.

Even though some farmers report that current commodity prices are below the cost of production, Vilsack said in a call to reporters that he sees lots of opportunity for young farmers in the future, whether they come from families that have been farming for generations or are the first in their families to enter farming, including those who have just completed military service.

Long-term, he noted, agricultural production needs to increase to feed a growing world population.

Women and people of color were present at his beginning farmer and rancher event in Ames, Iowa, Vilsack said. Some of the younger farmers, he said, are attracted a "variety of crop systems" rather than the large-scale commercial production for which the United States is known.

"Looking back on the past seven years, I am extremely proud of what USDA has accomplished for rural America," Vilsack said in a news release.

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"Even as this administration ends, the important work of USDA will continue for the next generation and beyond," he said. "We see new and beginning farmers and ranchers as a critical force in sustaining food security, food safety, and many other aspects of agriculture that will become even more challenging as our global population grows."

This year's awards will be made in 27 states and the District of Columbia to help fund a range of projects by partner organizations, like the Iowa-based National Farmers Organization (NFO) that will use $588,948 in funding to assist 900 beginning organic dairy and grain producers over the next three years.

NFO will provide workshops, mentoring and other assistance in 11 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin, USDA said.

New Mexico State University and the Institute of American Indian Arts will partner to use $598,030 to provide education, mentoring and one-on-one technical assistance to American Indian Pueblo beginning farmers.

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, based in North Carolina, will use $513,959 in funding for Farm Pathways, a program to deliver whole farm training, farmer-to-farmer networking and farmland access.

–The Hagstrom Report