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Secretary Vilsack Sets Stage to Continue the Important Work of the USDA

Even though he is nearing the end of his tenure as secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack is by no means coasting through the next six months. He is setting the stage now to ensure that the USDA continues to strengthen rural America and provides necessary assistance to the country’s farmers and ranchers.

One part of this effort will be a series of Fall Forums that the USDA will host in the coming months, highlighting the progress made on the top issues facing agriculture. Each forum will focus on one of these issues, including land tenure and the next generation of agriculture, climate change, export markets, local and regional food systems, and groundbreaking ag research. USDA officials will lead the forums and facilitate discussions with regional stakeholders to lay the groundwork for the next administration.

"Looking back on the past seven years, I am extremely proud of what USDA has accomplished for rural America. Even as this Administration ends, the important work of USDA will continue for the next generation and beyond," said Vilsack, who highlighted the Fall Forums at a meeting at Iowa State University today.

Vilsack meeting
In addition to the Fall Forums, Vilsack also announced a new investment of $17.8 million for 37 projects to help educate, mentor, and enhance the next generation of farmers. The investment is made through the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

"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. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and the forums that we are planning, will be important steps in helping young people, returning veterans, and others access the tremendous opportunities in the agriculture sector,” he adds.

Supporting the future generation of farming has been a key initiative of the current administration, so it makes sense that Vilsack wants to ensure this effort continues.

To date, the USDA has invested more than $126 million into projects targeting new and beginning farmers through BFRDP. The funds have been used to improve access to land and capital; build new markets and market opportunities; extend conservation; offer risk management tools; and increase outreach, education, and technical support.

The awards announced today 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 Midwest states. The full list of grants is available here.

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