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USDA Results: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

The next generation of farmers and ranchers will come from everywhere. They may come from farming backgrounds or be new to agriculture; they may be college graduates coming home to farm with their families; or they may be veterans, second career seekers, immigrants and people from all ethnic backgrounds.

Over the past seven years, USDA has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; extending new conservation opportunities; offering appropriate risk management tools; and increasing our outreach, education, and technical support.

From 2009-2014, USDA increased our investment in new and beginning farmers across several key programs by 14.1 percent. By September 30, 2017, USDA will further increase access to key New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs which will result in increasing investments by a value of $5.6 billion over two years. Within existing resources, USDA will expand opportunities through targeted outreach, and increased technical assistance, resulting in increasing participation in key programs by 6.6 percent over the goal term.

Access to Land and Capital

  • Gave new farmers priority for lending assistance. USDA's Farm Service Agency is often "the lender of first opportunity" for many new and beginning producers.
    1. Since 2009, FSA has issued more than 102,000 direct and guaranteed farm operating and farm ownership loans to beginning farmers and ranchers.
    2. FSA's microloan program is an important access point to credit for some new farmers and ranchers and 70 percent of these loans have gone to beginning farmers. Since the program's inception in January 2013, USDA has issued over 18,000 microloans to help small, underserved, and beginning farmers obtain operating credit. The 2014 Farm Bill revisions have assisted 1,600 farmers by increasing the loan limit and expanding the credit available for their family farming businesses.
  • Facilitated over 2,500 contracts to transition over 400,000 acres of expiring conservation reserve program land from retired or retiring landowners to beginning or underserved producers for sustainable grazing or crop production.

Building New Markets and Growing Opportunity

  • Supported new farmers who are selling their products locally. Between FY09 and FY15, USDA invested more than $800 million in more than 29,400 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects across the country– including many young and beginning farmers. Since 2014, the Local Food Promotion Program has awarded 351 projects, 14 percent of which benefited new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Since 2014, the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) has awarded 348 projects, including 164 projects in 2015 alone. In 2015, 81 percent of FMPP projects benefited new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • The USDA National Farmers Market Directory now lists over 8,400 farmers markets nationwide. USDA data indicate that the number of farmers markets nationwide has increased by 93.3 percent between 2006 and 2015.
  • Enhanced the profitability and viability of new farm businesses by helping them diversify and turn commodities into value-added products. USDA's Value-Added Producer Grants program gives priority to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them increase revenues through value-added agriculture, marketing and new product development. By 2017, 25 percent of Value Added Producer Grants will go to beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • Provided standards and grading services that help new farmers be more competitive in the evolving marketplace and access new market opportunities. Quality grade standards and USDA's independent third-party grading, certification, auditing, inspection, and laboratory analysis services are voluntary tools that producers can use to help promote and communicate quality and wholesomeness to consumers.
  • Created a certification for small and very small producers of grass-fed beef tailored to meet the needs of small-scale livestock producers and the growing grass-fed beef industry.
  • Awarded $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that support specialty crop growers, supporting hundreds of projects that address issues ranging from food safety to research needs to increased access to fruits and vegetables, all benefiting specialty crop producers and consumers across the country. Since 2009, 365 Specialty Crop Block Grant projects, or five percent of those awarded, have benefited new and beginning farmers. These projects awarded funding of approximately $3 million.
  • Made available to states $13 million for organic certification cost-share assistance to make organic certification more accessible for producers and handlers across the country (by providing reimbursements for up to 75 percent of the costs of organic certification, up to a maximum of $750 per certification scope).
  • Enhanced our partnership with our State and Regional Trade Groups and Cooperators to support the needs of next generation of agriculture seeking to export their products. Specifically, USDA will be working earlier and more intensively with interested new and beginning farmers and ranchers, helping to develop export capacity where appropriate and connecting appropriate new and beginning farm and ranch businesses with enhanced networking opportunities, including domestic trade shows and trips to meet buyers abroad.

Risk Management

  • Provided better crop insurance coverage to over 13,500 new and beginning farmers and ranchers participating in beginning farmer crop insurance incentives, including almost 49,000 policies. Beginning farmers and ranchers have saved over $14 million in premiums and administrative fees because of this new program in the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • Strengthened the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for new producers by reducing the premiums on buy-up level coverage by 50 percent for new farmers and waiving their application fee.
    1. USDA estimates 1,255 new and beginning farmers enrolled in NAP in 2015. To date, there are 2,325 new and beginning farmers enrolled in NAP for 2016.

Conservation Assistance

  • Provided technical and financial assistance to help beginning farmers and ranchers implement voluntary conservation measures, resulting in benefits for both the environment and agricultural operations.
  • Made available assistance for new farmers that will cover approximately 90 percent of the costs associated with implementing conservation practices and provide approximately 50 percent of funding in advance to help new farmers hire contractors or purchase needed materials to implement conservation practices.

Outreach, Education, and Technical Assistance

  • In June 2014, launched for the first time, a single front door to USDA resources for the next generation of farmers and ranchers,,A new web tool was added in October 2015 that enables new farmers to search for resources customized to their needs, and expanded the diversity of audiences served. As the primary portal to USDA resources, currently receives close to 140 million unique visitors per year, and New Farmers has been one of the most accessed websites since inception. In September 2015, USDA also introduced new resources specifically designed for military veterans interested in agriculture, including a website,, which consolidates information about USDA’s preferences, priorities, and incentives for military veterans in USDA programs in one place.
  • Provided training, education, and outreach to a new generation of agriculture leaders through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Since 2009, 184 awards have been made for more than $90 million through BFRDP. More than 50,000 beginning farmers and ranchers have participated in projects funded by BFRDP. Based on 2014 grants, BFRDP is projected to support approximately 20,000 early-stage farmers and ranchers be more successful, and about 2,500 farmers get started over the three year life of the projects.
  • Supported cooperative projects that meet the needs of agricultural workers with disabilities through education, information on assistive technology solutions, and networking through the AgrAbility program. To date, more than 12,000 farmers, ranchers and their families have received personal, direct service through AgrAbility.
  • Targeted outreach and technical assistance to veterans, minority and limited-resource farmers and ranchers, and others that have not historically benefited from USDA programs through the 2501 Program, which has distributed over $74 million to 304 partners since 2010.
  • Enhanced our coordination with veterans resources including Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and Department of Labor. Our teams are developing consolidated resources, shared services, and so much more for our nations’ servicemen and women who want to make a life on the land. In particular, every service member transitioning out of the military will now hear about career opportunities in agriculture and how USDA programs can support them as beginning farmers. USDA has also announced a new Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison to specifically address the unique interests of military veterans engaging in agriculture.
  • Opened our door wide to the next generation. USDA has expanded our work with STEM colleagues like NASA to build connections with youth and their engagements with STEM and agriculture.