Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act
Agriculture is the backbone of our nation’s economy, but the average age of our nation’s farmer is 57 years old. It is the people in agriculture that produce our food and fiber, protect and enhance our natural resources, and contribute to the revitalization of our rural and urban communities. It is important to grow the next generation of farmers and ranchers. There are good opportunities for economic growth and job creation within agriculture, but with a large segment of existing producers at or beyond retirement age, it is critical that we support those new entrepreneurs who will farm and ranch our nation’s soil and land in the future.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (BFROA) is a smart investment in job creation. The bill addresses many of the barriers that can impede new agriculture entrepreneurs from starting a farming business. These barriers include limited access to land and markets, high land and input costs, and a lack of sufficient support networks. The bill would enhance the best existing federal policies and programs used by new producers, and bring a handful of new initiatives forward that recognize the dynamic and ever-changing aspects of American agriculture.
Among other changes, the BFROA would:
- Expand credit options by creating a new microloan program that would make loans up to $35,000 to young, beginning, and veteran farmers seeking capital to help cover start-up costs.
- Increase access to farmland by continuing and improving the successful Down Payment Loan Program, which provides much needed capital to new farmers seeking to purchase property.
- Renew funding for the successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provides grants to organizations and institutions to establish new farmer training programs. This program is the only federal initiative that is exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
- Expand resources and create economic opportunities for military veterans interested in pursuing a career in agriculture by establishing a new funding priority on new farmer training and agricultural rehabilitation programs specifically geared at returning veterans, and creating a new Veterans Agricultural Liaison within USDA to help connect returning veterans with beginning farmer resources and assist them with program eligibility requirements for participation in farm bill programs.
With the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, Congress has the chance to enhance and improve a comprehensive beginning farmer and rancher package that breaks down barriers to entry and creates the conditions to ensure the effective start-up and success of new farmers and ranchers. This legislation tackles a pressing concern that too often is just talked about but not acted upon.