The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) and Farm Hack have just launched a collaborative Kickstarter campaign for Growing Innovation, a project to create an open source online library of agricultural innovations and a new book documenting sustainable models developed by farmers.
The online library will include a searchable database and interactive maps of farm projects, including detailed plans from blueprints to budgets. The book will feature exemplary farm projects from RAFI’s archive, projects that are highly replicable and adaptable to variety of contexts.
RAFI’s staff members expect the new online library will be an especially helpful resource for beginning farmers searching for new ideas for sources of agricultural income, as well as transitioning farmers seeking tested models and stories they can relate to. Learn more about Growing Innovation here.
Health coverage is a huge issue for beginning farmers, as it is for many people involved in farming. NYFC is a strong advocate for improving the ways that beginning farmers can access insurance, including pushing for improvements in state and federal programs. However, we know that the perfect solution is a long way off, so we asked Bisi Ibrahim, an expert from NerdWallet Health, to offer some insight into the issue.
Consider this a starting point as we push for better programs to support beginning farmers. Here’s what she had to offer:
Working long hours with dangerous equipment in all types of weather, farmers know they need health insurance to protect their physical and financial well-being. However, since approximately three in four farmers are self-employed, most do not have access to employer-sponsored health insurance. For new farmers, like most small-business owners, this problem is further compounded by how it often takes years to turn a profit, making it tempting to skip buying expensive health insurance on the individual market.
There are several options for new farmers looking for affordable health insurance. Below are a few to consider.
Your spouse’s employer plan
This is the easiest and most obvious way to go. Employers typically get discounted rates on health insurance and pay some of the costs for employees and their families. If you’re married and your spouse has an employer-sponsored plan, you may be able to sign up immediately if you’ve experienced a qualifying life event such as a change in your work status (you left a corporate job) or marriage. The benefits representative at your spouse’s employer should be able to provide details on whether you’re eligible and how to sign up.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows workers to extend their employer-based health insurance for up to 18 months after leaving a job. Thus, if you’ve recently left a traditional job, you may be able to get back on your previous plan. You’ll have to pay the entire premium, plus a 2% administrative fee, but that will likely be cheaper than the rate you’d pay on the individual market.
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, offers reduced premiums for some Americans. If your family income is between $11,490 and $126,360, and depending on the size of your family, you may qualify for a subsidized premium. Also, if your income falls below a certain amount ($28,725 for individuals, for example), insurers must by law reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Visit healthcare.gov for details on coverage and rates.
Small-business group plan
All health insurance plans sold to small groups—typically, employers with between 2 and 50 employees—must now be offered on a “guaranteed issue” basis. This means that, if you have at least one employee (thus two people working on your farm), insurers cannot refuse to offer coverage based on health status. Several states require guaranteed issue plans for solo business owners as well. Since business plans typically carry more favorable rates than individual plans, you may be able to secure cheaper health insurance for farmers via this route.
Through a membership organization
Membership organizations, including AAA, AARP, unions and university alumni associations, often offer health insurance to their members. Discounts can run as much as 30%. Look into joining a group that offers discounted health insurance to its members—but be sure to crunch the numbers to see that the membership fee doesn’t offset any discounts.
A majority of states have a high-risk health insurance pool that covers individuals who are otherwise unable to obtain adequate insurance. For instance, California offers the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program, which is open to residents who are ineligible for Medicare Parts A and B, cannot purchase health care under Cal-COBRA or COBRA and are unable to secure adequate coverage.
Off-farm part-time job
A part-time job could provide adequate coverage until your farm becomes profitable enough for you to afford insurance on your own. Several employers offer health insurance to part-time workers, including DHL, FedEx, Lowe’s, Starbucks, and UPS.
Whether it’s rallying for better federal programming or providing online resources for your operation, NYFC is dedicated to helping your farm thrive. We’re excited to release a new tool for you and your farm – the Vegetable Grower’s Guide to Organic Certification.
Young farmers and supporters! As an organization focused on sustainable agriculture for the next generation, we’re excited to be a part of the push for better laws around GMO contamination.
Today we’re asking you to take a few minutes to send in a comment to the USDA before next Tuesday to tell them why GMO contamination is an important issue for you and your farm. See below for more information from our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, who are taking a lead on addressing this threat.
Calling folks from the Upper Arkansas and San Luis Valleys – upcoming young farmer mixer in Salida, CO in a week and a half!
Come on out to hear more about NYFC, get to know other farmers in the region and have a good time! Email email@example.com for more info and to RSVP. (Not nearby? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help in putting together a mixer in your area!)
How do we build our networks and help grow the potential for success in the future food economy? By bringing together farmers and service providers to meet each other, ask questions, listen and discuss.
Today at 3 PM EST, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to highlight USDA’s commitment to new farmers to build the new generation of agriculture.
There are great challenges and opportunities for new and beginning farmers and ranchers as the average age of farm operators continues to rise and more diverse farmers are entering the industry. During the Hangout you will learn from Deputy Secretary Harden and two farmers who will share their experiences in agriculture.
Last weekend, after digging ourselves out from a foot of fresh snow, over 20 young farmers gathered for a common purpose: to launch a Vermont chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition. The meeting, hosted at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s (NOFA-VT) Annual Winter Conference, drew a group of farmers diverse in background, farming experience, politics, and geography. What we share, however, is a belief that to empower young Vermont farmers is to improve our state’s food system for generations to come.
Interested in incorporating draft animal power on your farm? We’re happy to announce that Donn Hewes, President of the Draft Animal Power Network (DAPNet) will serve as expert on the Farmers Forum February 24th-28th.
As we reported last week, the new five-year farm bill has passed – so where do we go from here?
We keep organizing! In this newsletter we’ll fill you in on what’s next in policy; introduce two new western initiatives (and our new staff members making it happen); and get you linked up with our cooperative webinars, expert advice on draft animal power and a wave of trainings, potlucks and parties hosted across the country by NYFC’s chapters.
Even though we passed the Farm Bill “finish line,” we’ve still got plenty to do!