According to the American Farmland Trust, the biggest barriers to entry for beginning farmers is access to new land and capital. In fact, it’s something of a Catch-22 – you need land to farm on to make money, but you don’t have money because you don’t have land to farm.
The difficulty of securing affordable, productive land is beginning to take its toll. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed the number of beginning farmers and ranchers is the lowest it has been in 30 years, and has slid 20% in the past five years.
“Farmland is the foundation of American agriculture,” says Julia Freedgood, AFT’s vice president of programs. “Success for the next generation of farmers and ranchers depends on whether they can secure suitable land with appropriate terms to start and expand their operations.
AFT was one of 34 organizations awarded grant money by USDA via its 2015 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. USDA awarded $17 million in total.
“When new farmers and ranchers start their operations, [this program] can help them implement tested strategies and new ideas that in turn benefit all of us,” says deputy secretary Krysta Harden.
This program was first established in 2008, intended to support farmers and ranchers with less than 10 years of experience. Grants go to organizations that can train beginning farmers and ranchers through various workshops, training, educational teams or technical assistance. For example, AFT’s “Farmland for the Next Generation” initiative will work on developing best practices and a comprehensive training program aimed at land acquisition.
“While there are lots of resources available to help beginners learn farm production, business and marketing skills, surprisingly few are available to help beginners gain access to land, and most of them are region-specific,” Freedgood says. “This project fills that gap and addresses land access needs for the diversity of America’s next generation.”
AFT will receive $699,796 to implement this program.
For more information on the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, click here. For more resources for beginning farmers and ranchers from AFT, click here.