U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sponsored legislation to extend, improve and strengthen programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that have proven successful in helping beginning farmers and ranchers continue, start and build family farming and ranching operations. The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Act, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), would help beginning farmers and ranchers obtain education and training, necessary financial resources and credit, assistance for practicing sound conservation in their operations, and adequate income insurance and risk management.
"Minnesota's family farmers are a vital part of our state's economic and cultural fabric," Klobuchar said."This legislation will help provide the training, education, and resources necessary to build a strong foundation for the next generation of farmers and ranchers."
Klobuchar has been a strong advocate for supporting beginning farmers and ranchers. She worked closely with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson to pass the 2008 Farm Bill, which authorized funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The program was designed to help those who have been farming for fewer than 10 years through education, training, technical assistance and outreach.
The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Act would:
* Extend and strengthen the beginning farmer and rancher development program, enacted in the 2008 farm bill, which provides competitively-awarded grants to qualified organizations that deliver training and education for beginning farmers and ranchers. The bill also makes it a priority for USDA to issue grants to support agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training for military veterans and to deliver training and education to help veterans who are beginning farmers and ranchers.
* Enhance USDA initiatives enabling beginning farmers and ranchers to assemble the financial resources they need to start and build a successful operation. It creates a microloan program in which young beginning farmers and ranchers who qualify could borrow up to $35,000 for operating expenses at reduced interest rates and with simplified paperwork, promotes savings for investment by beginning farmers and ranchers through individual development savings accounts, and updates and improves USDA programs that help beginning farmers and ranchers obtain loans for operating expenses, land purchases, and applying conservation practices.
* Strengthen assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers for maintaining and adopting sound conservation practices in their operations through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and on land that is coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
* Increase opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers to obtain grants from USDA to help them create income-producing enterprises by adding value to agricultural commodities.
* Help beginning farmers and ranchers obtain better crop and revenue insurance policies and apply risk management in their businesses.