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USDA to Start Mentoring Connection for Young Farmers
Can experienced farmers and retired ag professionals help guide and tutor today’s younger generation now entering the farming business?
Yes, says the USDA as it launches a mentoring connection between Farm Service Agency (FSA) and SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, an existing mentoring program managed by the Small Business Administration.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Steve Records, the COO of SCORE, launched a memorandum of understanding on August 5 at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, to kick off the program.
Perdue said that young growers have access to existing programs but they also need “someone at their shoulder” for help with specific skills. “Do they have a business concept?” Perdue asked. “Do they know budgeting? Do they know capital requirements?” It’s these skills that experienced farmers and executives can teach to help ensure young farmers succeed.
“SCORE’s mission to help people start and grow vibrant small businesses is boosted by this new partnership with USDA,” Records said. “The partnership allows both SCORE and USDA to serve more people while providing America’s farmers added support to lead to more sound business operations, create profitable farms with sustainable growth, and create new jobs. We are excited at the opportunity to extend SCORE’s impact to our farmers and the agriculture industry.”
Here’s how the concept will work: USDA employees (primarily local FSA office staff) works in communities across the country, and can identify young farmers needing additional skills with retired or experienced professionals in their area. “One of the greatest assets that rural America has is this wonderful wealth of knowledge of retired farmers,” says Chris Beyerhelm, acting administrator of the FSA. “How do we harness that type of experience to help new people get into the business?”
That is what SCORE does, except in another federal agency, with about 11,000 mentors, 200 of which are agribusiness people, Beyerhelm says.
The program will roll out in Iowa and selected locations, then grow through the Corn Belt.