Bipartisan Bill to Support Young & Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Signed into Law

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) today announced that the Next Generation in Agriculture Act was included in the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill.  This bipartisan bill will support programs that help new and beginning farmers and ranchers enter and remain in the industry, build the next generation of farmers, and feed the country and the world.  Senators Collins and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced The Next Generation in Agriculture Act in April.

 

The final agreement comes after the Senate and House of Representatives worked for weeks to reconcile the differences between each chamber’s version of the legislation.  The legislation, which passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support, was signed into law today.

 

The Next Generation in Agriculture Act aims to ensure a younger generation of agriculture workers have the education and support they need to begin a career in farming and ranching.

 

The average age of a farmer is 57 years old in both Maine and North Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Across the country, the share of farmers age 65 and older has increased from 14 percent in 1945, to more than 31 percent in 2012.  The percentage of new farmers has declined since 1982, and without efforts to cultivate the next generation of farmers, rural economies could suffer.

 

“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 will 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.  I look forward to seeing this important legislation become law.”

 

The Next Generation in Agriculture Act will give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more resources to help young and beginning farmers become established in the field of agriculture. Specifically, the bill will:

 

  • Extend the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development (BFRD) program beyond 2018, and will increase the USDA’s support for the program to $30 million in fiscal years 2019-2020, $40 million for fiscal years 2021-2022, and $50 million for fiscal year 2023 and each fiscal year thereafter.

 

  • Emphasize areas of the BFRD program that will include experienced farmers and ranchers who are looking to transition their farming operation to a young or beginning farmer.

 

  • Require that at least five percent of BFRD program funding be used to support programs and services that address the needs of military veteran farmers and ranchers.

 

  • Create a permanent National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator and Agricultural Youth Coordinator at the USDA, and direct state USDA offices to designate an employee as the state beginning farmer and rancher coordinator.

 

  • Establish a $1 million Next Generation Agriculture Technology Challenge competition to provide an incentive for the development of innovative technology that removes barriers to entry in the marketplace for beginning farmers and ranchers.

 

The BFRD program plays a key role in helping the next generation become established in agriculture by providing grants to organizations for education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers. Click HERE for more information on the program.

 

The Next Generation in Agriculture Act has been endorsed by a number of Maine and National groups including the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the Southern Maine Young Farmers Coalition, Maine Farmland Trust, and the National Farmers Union Policy Committee.

 

Click HERE for more information about the Next Generation in Agriculture Act.