A group of Midwest congressional members introduced legislation Thursday to help recruit and support individuals interested in starting farming.

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, introduced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively.

Their bipartisan, bicameral legislation is aimed at recruiting and supporting the next generation of American farmers. Other members of Congress who joined in introducing the measure include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Robert Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY).

“This legislation will help families and individuals across our nation apply their talents, motivation and dedication to start and continue farm and ranch operations and revitalize rural America,”Harkin says. “Beginning farmers and ranchers will benefit from practical assistance in this bill, including effective training and mentoring, better access to and careful use of credit, enhanced support for conservation, and help in starting and succeeding in profitable enterprises such as value-added businesses.”

“Folks across the country and around the world depend on food that is produced by Minnesota's farmers and ranchers.”  Franken says. “The problem is that it's getting harder and harder for first-time farmers and ranchers to get started, to expand their operations and to thrive. This legislation would give farmers and ranchers who are starting out more opportunity to succeed and help preserve a great way of life.”

“Minnesota’s family farmers are the backbone of our rural communities and local economies,” Klobuchar says. “This legislation will help provide the training, education and resources necessary to build a strong foundation for beginning farmers and ranchers to help keep our agricultural economy strong for generations to come.”

“I’m hearing of more and more people all across America who want to farm or start careers in agriculture,” Peterson says. “Supporting beginning farmers and ranchers is a win-win for rural America and the entire country.”

“With the average age of the U.S. farmer at 57, ensuring the next generation of American farmers is able to provide the world with a safe, abundant supply of food should be a top priority,” says Walz, ranking member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry. “To accomplish this goal, we must provide our youth with the training and tools they need to seize opportunity and take up farms of their own. By easing access to lines of credit and land, and creating training programs for new producers, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act works to do just that.”

“Agriculture is essential to our country’s well-being. Good agricultural policy is critical to America’s economic security, energy security and even national security. Given the average age of the American farmer today is 57 years old, we should work to ensure that the next generation of farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to overcome the financial barriers unique to agricultural operations,” Fortenberry says. “I’m proud to support this legislation, which provides a variety of support options involving access to farm credit for young producers, cost-saving conservation practices, emerging market opportunities such as locally and organically raised foods within regional foods systems and increased outreach on agricultural job opportunities for our nation’s veterans.”

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act helps to prepare a new generation of American agricultural producers by modifying and improving upon existing USDA programs and initiatives to help reduce the steep financial burdens of setting up an agricultural operation. The bill also includes the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training beginning farmers and ranchers.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act will invest in the next generation of American producers by:

 

  • Enabling access to land, credit, and crop insurance for new producers.
  • Assisting new producers to launch and strengthen new farm and value-added businesses.
  • Helping new producers become good stewards of the land.
  • Providing training, mentoring and research that beginning farmers and ranchers need to be successful.
  • Conducting outreach on agricultural job opportunities for military veterans.