Beginning Farmers and Ranchers | USDA
USDA In Facebook USDA In Twitter Google+ USDA Blog USDA In Youtube USDA govdelivery USDA In Flickr USDA RSS
Stay Connected

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 six 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.

Access to Land and Capital

  • Gave new farmers priority for lending assistance. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) is often "the lender of first opportunity" for many new and beginning producers.
    1. Since 2009, FSA has issued more than 95,000 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. Since the program's inception in January 2013, USDA has issued 10,000 microloans. 70 percent of these loans have gone to beginning farmers.
  • Expanded lending opportunities for thousands of farmers and ranchers to begin and continue operations, including greater flexibility in determining eligibility, raising loan limits, and emphasizing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers. These changes were made in the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • Facilitated 1,789 contracts to transition over 299,000 acres of expiring conservation reserve program land from retired or retiring landowners to beginning or socially disadvantaged producers for sustainable grazing or crop production.

Building New Markets and Growing Opportunity

  • Supported new farmers who are selling their products locally. Since Fiscal Year 2013, USDA has made over 500 investments in infrastructure development all along the supply chain for local foods, including scale-appropriate processing facilities, farmers markets, food hubs and distribution networks. The USDA National Farmers Market Directory now lists over 8,200 farmers markets nationwide. USDA data indicate that the number of farmers markets nationwide has increased by 180 percent between 2006 and 2014.
  • 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. Since 2009, nearly 20 percent of Value Added Producer Grants have gone 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.
  • Provided reimbursement to organic producers and handlers for as much as 75 percent of the costs for their organic certification, up to a maximum of $750 annually. Organic certification is a valuable resource for small producers and businesses as it can increase producer returns.
  • 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 for beginning farmers and ranchers, which for crop insurance purposes are those that have farmed for fewer than five years. Changes include: exempting beginning farmers from administrative fees associated with catastrophic and additional coverage policies; adding 10 percentage points of premium subsidy for additional coverage policies; allowing a producer to use the actual production history of a farm in which they assisted in decision making or contributed labor; and increasing the yield adjustment beginning farmers receive for their actual production history in low yielding years.
  • Strengthened the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for new producers by reducing the premiums on buy-up level coverage by 50 percent for new farmers and waiving their application fee.

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 the 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

  • Launched, a one-stop shop for new and beginning farmers interested in USDA support and resources. Since its launch in 2014, the webpage has received an average of 14,000 unique visitors per month.
  • Provided training, education, and outreach to a new generation of agriculture through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Since the program was created by the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA has awarded more than $70 million through 146 grants to organizations that have developed education and training programs. More than 50,000 beginning farmers and ranchers have participated in projects funded by BFRDP.
  • 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 11,000 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 $66 million to 250 partners since 2010.
  • Announced the first Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison to specifically address the unique interests of military veterans engaging in agriculture.