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Legislators Set Their Sights on the Future with Beginning Farmer Bill

Legislators Set Their Sights on the Future with Beginning Farmer Bill
Image: tupungato/iStock/Thinkstock

Washington, DC, April 26, 2018 – Today, a bipartisan coalition led by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762), which will drive investments in the 2018 Farm Bill toward programs and policies that create economic opportunity for beginning farmers and ranchers.

With the average age of American farmers creeping toward 60 years old and increasingly fewer would-be producers entering the industry, we may soon lack the people-power to produce the food, fuel, and fiber our country needs. With the right investments in outreach, education and other resources, however, the 2018 Farm Bill can ensure that American agriculture remains resilient for decades to come.

“Farming and ranching is a way of life in North Dakota – but to ensure it stays that way, we have to support young and beginning farmers and ranchers,” said Senator Heitkamp. “We must do more to cultivate the next generation of family farmers, and that’s what this bipartisan bill is about – giving young Americans the tools they need to succeed in agriculture and keep our rural communities strong. With the number of new farmers and ranchers falling – and our current population of farmers aging – this bill would take important steps to maintain North Dakota’s strong tradition of family farming and help new farmers and ranchers launch successful careers.”

“The future of our country’s agriculture industry, a vital component of our economy, is dependent on energizing, supporting, and educating the next generation of farmers,” said Senator Collins. “Our legislation would ensure that new farmers and ranchers have the tools and firsthand experience necessary to become established in this field by facilitating apprenticeships with older farmers, assisting with the acquisition of land from retiring farmers, and providing critical entrepreneurship and business training.  We encourage our colleagues to support this bipartisan bill to help new farmers build on our nation’s rich farming tradition.”

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) praised Senators Heitkamp and Collins for introducing a bill that breaks down the barriers to successful careers in agriculture for America’s next generation of farmers and ranchers:

“Without new generations of farmers, there is no future for American agriculture,” said Juli Obudzinski, NSAC Deputy Policy Director. “The Next Generation in Agriculture Act creates a bridge between our current and aspiring farmers by facilitating the transfer of skills, knowledge, and resources between generations. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauds Senators Heitkamp and Collins for laying a blueprint for how the farm bill can help secure a vibrant future for our food and farm economies and for the farmers and families that keep those industries strong.”

Nearly 100 million acres of farmland (enough to support nearly 250,000 family farms) is set to change hands over the next five years – during the course of our next farm bill. While some retiring farmers and ranchers will be passing on their land and operations to their family members, many are heading toward retirement without a succession plan in place. The Next Generation in Agriculture Act will help keep more current farm operations in production, and better prepare more beginning producers to start successful businesses by:

  • Empowering new farmers (including young, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers) with the skills to succeed in today’s agricultural economy by permanently reauthorizing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
  • Expanding beginning farmers’ access to land by scaling up resources for farm transition and succession planning.
  • Ensuring equitable access to federal crop insurance by expanding crop insurance incentives to better support beginning farmers in managing risk on their farms.
  • Increasing coordination, outreach and technical assistance between U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that provide resources to young, beginning, and retiring farmers.

NSAC is proud to endorse this legislation, and strongly supports its inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill. Many of the proposals included in this bill are also included in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R.4316), which was introduced in the House last fall and also endorsed by NSAC.

Other organizations endorsing this bill include the National Young Farmers Coalition and the National FFA Organization.

More information on the Next Generation in Agriculture Act, including a summary and detailed outline, is available on the NSAC website.

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