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New bill targets young, beginning farmers

Jeff Caldwell 10/25/2011 @ 3:24pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

If House and Senate ag leaders have their way, a new program for young and beginning farmers will be a part of the next farm bill.

Lawmakers announced this week they're introducing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 into the books for the 2012 farm bill. The program "highlights federal programs that help support economic opportunities for young and beginning farmers and ranchers," according to a report from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). The act has support from both sides of the political aisle and is expected to be taken up in ag committee discussions as soon as next week.

"The scope of this bill represents a historical investment in beginning farmers. The programs will nurture the next generation of family farmers by building human capital and assets," says Steve Schwartz, founder of California FarmLink, an NSAC member group. "The Act builds a foundation to develop jobs and farm businesses in rural communities with a very small investment of government funds."

Some of the provisions of the act, according to NSAC, include:

  • Individual Development Accounts and FSA Microloans
  • Loans and set asides for conservation programs
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
  • Agricultural opportunities for military veterans
More on the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011

"The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition supports the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, and advocates for fully incorporating the bill's provisions in the new farm bill," adds Juli Obudzinski, an NSAC Policy Associate. "We believe that the bill pulls together the best ideas from around the country for advancing new farming opportunities by building on the progress of previous farm bills, and stepping up the pace of reform."

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