beginning farmers

As most farmers know, farming has not been easy the last few years. With the drought and the rising costs in seed and chemicals, the morale of agriculture producers has dropped. However, there might be a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for beginning farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is “hopeful” about the future for beginning farmers and ranchers. This week, he announced $18 million in funding for projects impacting that demographic through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

The program is designed “to help educate, mentor and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.” The six-figure grants through the program will help fund 37 projects, bringing the total investment in that program to $126 million.

There are a large number of people interested in getting into production agriculture, Vilsack said in a conference call.

“There are now options and doors available for every one of those individuals to get in the business,” Vilsack said. “I think you’re going to continue to see an increase” in beginning farmers and ranchers.

Vilsack noted that the framework and foundation is available for those looking to get into agriculture.

He also spoke with beginning farmers on the Iowa State University campus during a roundtable discussion. Vilsack said the discussion helped make him more aware of the issues and concerns they are facing.

Purchasing land for food production and the estate tax were both major concerns noted during the discussion. Flexibility within the Conservation Reserve Program, incentives for land sales from older landowners and the need to approach the next farm bill from a perspective of need rather than savings were also discussed, according to Agri-Pulse.

“I think there’s a tremendous interest out there, and the challenge will be to make sure that we continue it,” Vilsack said.