Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, during a recent trip to Missouri, announced more than $17 million in USDA grants are available under the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. In addition, Vilsack described recent initiatives, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), designed to help producers and keep farmers on the land.

“This program underscores President Obama's commitment to support the nation's beginning farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said. “Through the beginning farmer and rancher grant program, we can help ensure that we are doing all we can for the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.”

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is an education, training, technical assistance and outreach program designed to help U.S. farmers and ranchers – specifically those who have been farming or ranching for less than 10 years.

Congress authorized funding for this program in the 2008 Farm Bill, including another $19 million in mandatory funding for FY 2010. USDA will make grants available to state, local, tribal, regional, non-profits, community-based organizations, academic institutions and networks, both public and private, to design programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers.

The projects will be limited to 3 years. Budget requests are due May 13, 2009, and must not exceed $250,000/year. USDA is looking for proposals from these areas:

  • Mentoring, apprenticeships, and internships;
  • Resources and referrals;
  • Assisting beginning farmers or ranchers in acquiring land from retiring farmers and ranchers;
  • Innovative farm and ranch transfer strategies;
  • Entrepreneurship and business training;
  • Model land leasing contracts;
  • Financial management training;
  • Whole farm planning;
  • Conservation assistance;
  • Risk management education;
  • Diversification and marketing strategies;
  • Curriculum development;
  • Understanding the impact of concentration and globalization;
  • Basic livestock and crop farming practices;
  • The acquisition and management of agricultural credit;
  • Environmental compliance;
  • Information processing; and
  • Other similar areas that would be useful to beginners.

More information about the program.