Victory in Colorado! Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill Becomes Law

Over the last year, NYFC chapters and members across Colorado testified, authored op-eds, met legislators in Denver, and brought legislators out to the farm to talk about the importance of supporting beginning farmer education through apprenticeships. SB18-042, a bipartisan effort to create an Agricultural Workforce Development Program is the result of their efforts. 

Today, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper traveled to Durango, CO to sign SB18-042 into law.

The bipartisan legislation passed unanimously from the first-ever Colorado Young and Beginning Farmer Interim Study Committee, established in 2017, before heading to the full General Assembly this session. The new program will reimburse qualified agricultural businesses up to 50% of the cost of hiring a farm apprentice, helping existing farmers and ranchers stay in production while allowing young farmers and ranchers to gain better access to land, equipment, and mentorship in Colorado.

If Colorado wants to save family farms, we need to find ways for young and beginning farmers to be farmers,” said Representative Marc Catlin (R-Montrose), one of the prime bill sponsors in the House. “This bill will help start that conversation.”

“Our agricultural lands are an essential part of the fabric of Colorado, and we must do what we can to keep them viable and productive,” said Representative Barbara McLachlan (D-Durango), the bill’s other prime sponsor in the House. “Young and beginning farmers represent our future, our environment, and our economy.” In the Senate, the bill was championed by prime sponsors Sens. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa).

This bill comes at a critical moment for Colorado agriculture, which is reflective of national trends. The average age of farmers in the state is 59, higher than the national average. Sixty-four percent of Colorado producers will exit farming over the next two decades, and over 20 million acres, or 63% of Colorado’s agricultural land, will need a new farmer. But there are not enough young farmers to take over: Colorado farmers over 55 outnumber farmers under 35 by twelve-to-one. Ensuring that young farmers and ranchers have access to land and mentorship is critical to the future of agriculture in Colorado.  

Reps. Catlin and McLachlan attended Thursday’s bill signing. Joining them were dozens of local farmer and rancher leaders from the Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition, a joint chapter of NYFC and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, as well as members of FFA and the Old Fort Lewis Farmer Incubator Program.

So many organizations, individuals, and legislators rallied behind young farmers in this effort over the last year, showing that support for the next generation of farmers and ranchers is here. Let’s keep it going.

Finding Farmland: Upgrade Released

If you have been using NYFC’s Finding Farmland site, get ready for a big upgrade to the Land Affordability Calculator. And if you haven’t—try out the new version now!

A decision-making tool designed specifically for farmers seeking land, the Finding Farmland Calculator makes it easy for farmers to understand and compare farm financing options, determine what they can afford, and prepare to work with a loan officer. Since our beta release in October, we have consulted dozens of farmers and service providers to identify improvements to the calculator. We are excited to now release the new-and-improved version.

The calculator allows you to build your own land purchase scenarios using conventional financing options, like bank loans, or with other farmland access strategies, such as conservation easements and lease-to-own deals. Compare financing options to determine how best to afford farmland, or stack up one property against another. Once you build a scenario, enter some financial information to determine how affordable the property is for you and your business. Download your results to compare scenarios and share them with mentors and lenders. NYFC does not save any financial information entered into the tool.

We intend the Finding Farmland Calculator to serve you at any point in your search for land. If you’re just getting started, the site will introduce you to financial terms and options you should be familiar with. For those in the midst of a land search, rely on the calculator as a decision-making tool, helping you keep your property and financing options organized for easy comparison. Think of it as your own, personal loan officer.

We encourage agriculture educators to use the Finding Farmland Calculator, and the other educational tools on the Finding Farmland site, in their business planning programs. More educational resources for land-seekers or service providers, and help documents for the calculator, are available at our Finding Farmland Calculator resources page.

Don’t forget to rate the tool to let us know what you think, and sign up for NYFC’s email list to receive updates on our work! Contact with any questions or suggestions.




Announcing NYFC’s Land Affordability Calculator


Fall is when farm work, done under the glow of the sun, gives way to farm planning under the glow of a computer screen. If your farm planning includes a search for—or even just a dream of—land of your own, NYFC has a tool for you.

This fall, NYFC launched Finding Farmland, a website designed to help farmers and ranchers across the country make informed financial decisions during the process of accessing land. The site was created in partnership with Fathom Information Design, a renowned firm that partners with clients to understand, express, and navigate complex data through visualizations, interactive tools, and software.

The main feature of the website is a Land Affordability Calculator, which you can use to compare financing costs for two different farm properties, or to compare different financing scenarios for a single property. The site also contains an interactive case study of one farmer’s land access story, which highlights important resources and partners that may play a role in your land search.


Comparing financing scenarios with NYFC’S Land Access Calculator


The calculator is designed to be useful during any stage of your land access journey—whether you have a specific property in mind or are just beginning to consider options. If you are just starting to think about accessing land and are unfamiliar with real estate finance, you can use the calculator to explore several concepts that are important to understand when working with lenders. If you have a property or two in mind, the calculator will help you determine the monthly financing costs for each parcel under different scenarios, as well as the total cost of financing each property. We hope that you will return again and again to Finding Farmland as you plan your business and access land.

Finding Farmland is in beta mode. NYFC encourages your feedback on this version so that we can develop it into a valuable tool for beginning farmers and ranchers. If you have questions, feedback, or suggestions, please email Mike Durante, NYFC’s land access program associate, at We will incorporate your feedback into our next version of the website. In addition to the Finding Farmland site, NYFC will offer a series of in-person trainings around the country and additional online resources over the coming year.

Finding Farmland is supported by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program [award #2016-70017-25498].

Young Farmers Rely on Affordable Health Care

With the Senate’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act looming, young farmers from across the country are writing to tell us about what’s at stake on their farms. Here are their stories. (more…)

Is Whole Farm Revenue Insurance right for your farm?

Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) is a new national crop insurance program for farmers. Since it is so new, lots of people are unclear about how it works.

Traditionally, CSA and market farmers didn’t buy crop insurance because the crops they grew weren’t covered, the paperwork was mountainous, or the coverage amounts were based on wholesale or commodity crop pricing. Crop insurance was also viewed as less crucial to those with diversified farms and direct-market sales because they are exposed to less single-crop risk and they can sell their products for higher prices.

In 2003 the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) implemented a pilot program for diversified farmers called the Adjusted Gross Revenue Program (AGR and AGR-Lite), but participation was low. In recent years, sustainable ag groups, like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, saw this gap and collaborated with RMA to develop a better option. In late 2014, the USDA rolled out a new insurance option, Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), to reach small and diversified growers. CSA, farmers market, and wholesale producers can be covered under this insurance plan. In fact, it was created with those groups in mind. And it isn’t just for crops— it applies to dairy and meat farmers, too!

Whole Farm Revenue Protection is subsidized to be affordable, and an individual farm’s diversification raises the level of subsidy available. Farmers base their insured revenue on their own previous sales records, so the farmer is able to set the worth of their crop. WFRP is administered by RMA and sold and serviced by private insurance agents. Also, if you’re considering FSA loans, WFRP will meet the FSA insurance requirement.

A team at Cornell has worked to create an online tool that helps farmers compare premiums, levels of coverage, and indemnity payments. In order to buy insurance, you’ll have to speak with a crop insurance agent.

Here at NYFC, we’re trying to help farmers better understand this opportunity and identify if it works for their farm. Are you having a hard time understanding how WFRP works? Are there barriers that keep you from using it? Are small, beginning farmers inherently opposed to crop insurance? Are the premiums or the payouts too confusing? We want to help you understand this option, and figure out if it is a good fit for your farm. Check out this introduction to WFRP and a new online tool developed by Cornell University’s Ag Analytics team to evaluate the program’s usefulness on your farm.

Cornell University Professor Jennifer Ifft invites farmers with questions or feedback about crop insurance to contact her for one-on-one information sessions between now and the March 15th sign-up deadline. Reach her via email at or phone at (607) 255-4769. She should be available during the following times, or you can call to set up a specific time:

March 6: 2-4pm
March 7: 9am-11am
March 9: 2-4pm
March 11: 9am-11am

If WFRP is a good fit for your farm, there’s still time to sign up for 2017! The final day to sign up for WFRP for the 2017 crop year is March 15th. If it isn’t a good fit, please help us understand what needs to be changed to make it more helpful for beginning farmers. Please contact Cara or write a comment on this post if you have crop insurance feedback.

This article is a part of the activities of the New York Crop Insurance Education and Risk Management Project, which is managed by Cornell University in partnership with the USDA Risk Management Agency to deliver crop insurance education in New York State.

Young Farmer Success Act Reintroduced in Congress

A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives took action to address our urgent national need for more young farmers by reintroducing the Young Farmer Success Act (H.R. 1060).  

The National Young Farmers Coalition first worked with members of Congress in 2015 to tackle one of the greatest barriers to young farmer success: student loan debt. The Young Farmer Success Act was introduced in October 2015 and today, that bill was reintroduced with key bipartisan support.

As an entire generation of farmers nears retirement, and with nearly two-thirds of our nation’s working farmland expected to change hands in the next two decades, our entire agricultural economy and food supply are at stake. Providing a viable path for young entrepreneurs to apply their energy and grit toward feeding their communities must become a national priority. And with a new Congress and a new President, now is the time to act.

“America needs a new generation of farmers, now more than ever,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), one of the bill’s lead sponsors. “The number of new farmers entering the field of agriculture has dropped by 20 percent, while the average farmer age has risen above 58-years-old. We must invest in the next generation of farmers, and do it now.” (more…)

FSA announces funding for loan program

USDA_FIPS_Fly-inUSDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced last Friday that they are transferring additional funding into their direct farm operating loan program. This program loans money to farmers to help them pay for farm operating expenses and equipment when they cannot find a farm loan with another lender. This program includes the incredibly popular microloan program that NYFC helped create.

Congress funds FSA’s farm loan programs for each fiscal year, which begins October 1. Farm loans are then available until this funding runs out or the next fiscal year begins. This year, direct operating funds ran out over the summer, which means FSA has been unable to fund roughly 2,000 approved loan applications. The funding transfer announced last week will wipe out this backlog and hopefully sustain the program through the end of the fiscal year.

NYFC is a strong advocate for FSA loan programs. For many of our members, FSA is the only entity that will give them a farm loan, and those loans are key to supporting and growing any farm business. We have been monitoring the farm loan funding situation carefully, and we strongly urged USDA to make this funding transfer. We have also urged Congress to increase funding for farm loans next year, in order to keep this situation from happening again. Thus far, the House and the Senate have both proposed increasing funding to meet demand.

While Friday’s action addresses the shortfall in the direct farm operating loan program, it does not fix the shortfall in the guaranteed farm operating loan program. Guaranteed loans are made by private banks but backed by USDA. If a farmer defaults on a guaranteed loan, USDA will step in and pay the bank a portion of the amount owed. FSA is facing a backlog in these loans as well.

Convention recap: Is there a farming platform?


By Eric Hansen, NYFC Policy Analyst 

Agriculture was conspicuously absent from the conversation at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. We already noted in The Hill the missed opportunity this presented for the RNC. Unfortunately the Democrats did an equally poor job speaking to farmers.

For Republicans, highlighting agriculture should be a no-brainer. Rural America overwhelmingly votes Republican and rural farmers are some of the most stalwart Republicans. By not addressing the challenges that farmers face, Republicans ignored a critical constituency, and at the same time a critical problem facing all Americans and their food supply.

Democrats also have an interest in good agriculture policy. Democrats are increasingly clustered in urban areas that, in spite of the growing interest in urban agriculture, are not known as farming centers. However, urban areas are full of consumers who are looking for safe, healthy, and affordable food. Good agriculture policy meets the needs of these constituents as well.

The Republican and Democratic platforms do not discuss agriculture policy extensively, but at least they each mention the topic. The Republican Platform primarily takes aim at on-farm regulations, including those governing Clean Water Act jurisdiction, the Endangered Species Act, and contract livestock production. On the Farm Bill, it reprimands Congress for the time it took to pass the 2014 Farm Bill and calls for swift passage of the next Farm Bill. Finally, the platform also takes a swipe at federally subsidized crop insurance, saying:

“No segment of agriculture can expect treatment so favorable that it seriously disadvantages workers in other trades. Federal programs to assist farmers in managing risk must be as cost-effective as they are functional, offering tools that can improve producers’ ability to operate when times are tough while remaining affordable to the taxpayers.”

The Democratic Platform, by contrast, strikes a more opportunity- and investment-focused tone. It calls for “funding to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers” and it specifically references the importance of sustainable agriculture, local markets, and regional food systems. Unfortunately, the platform is missing specifics on how to accomplish these goals.

While party platforms are important, agenda-setting documents, they are no guarantee of future action. Given the lack of attention paid to agriculture at the conventions, it is going to take a lot of work to bring the policy focus onto farming. However, there are steps you can take right now to get started. To learn more, click here.

A Young Farmers Guide to Election Season

Meeting speaker_IMG_5775

Election season is in full swing, and Congress is in recess, which means that instead of hanging out in D.C., most Senators and Representatives are in their home states, listening to voters. Agriculture hasn’t gotten much discussion at the national level, which makes it even more critical that candidates hear from farmers.

Young farmers are important constituents, and candidates need to understand that agricultural issues matter. Many candidates and elected officials don’t know very much about farming and even less about growing and marketing methods that many young farmers care about, like organic farming and CSAs. When you take the time to educate policymakers, you are doing them a favor. You’re also helping to inform policy that could impact farmers nationwide.

But before we talk about how to engage, you are registered to vote, right? If you aren’t sure, you can register here.

Now that that is taken care of, it’s time to make your voice heard. There are many ways to engage candidates, whether they are running for president or town council. Try one of these five actions:

  • Attend a town hall or candidate forum. While there is no universal format for town halls or forums, anyone who attends can ask questions or make a statement. Candidates use these events to share their beliefs and get feedback on the issues and positions that matter to constituents. Attending one of these events gives you the opportunity to talk about farming and publicly ask the candidate for support.
  • Ask a question at a local debate. Debates often provide the opportunity for the audience to ask questions. By attending and asking about agriculture, you can challenge both candidates to take on the issue.
  • Get a group of local farmers together to request an on-farm meeting with the candidate. What better way is there to show the importance of farming than to get the candidate out onto a local farm! If you get a couple local farmers together, you can show your impact on the local community and demonstrate your challenges and successes first-hand.
Yoho and Emily visit Florida

Rep. Yolo at Swallowtail Farm in Florida.

Are you sensing a theme here? Meeting with a candidate, face-to-face, is a great way to share your experience and concerns. But there are other ways to speak up as well:

  • Engage the candidates on social media. If you only have a few minutes or cannot make it to an event, you can still reach out to a candidate online. Campaign staffers are carefully watching Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you share a position with the candidate online, the staff will take note.
  • Bring your friends into the conversation. Candidates will pay attention to the positions they hear the loudest and most often. So bring other constituents with you to amplify your impact, either online or in person.

One last reminder: We all have personal politics and preferred candidates. However, elected officials are charged with representing all their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them. You do not need to agree with your officials’ politics in order to invite them out to the farm, attend an event, or make the case for them to support good agriculture policy. Farmers need champions from both sides of the aisle, and lawmakers need your help understanding the issues!

FSMA Update: FDA Finalizes the Produce Rule

CureOrganicFarm lettuce_KaceyKropp_crop

By Eric Hansen, NYFC Policy Analyst 

This is what we have all been waiting for, at least those of us with a stake in farm policy. On November 13 , the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the final version of Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, commonly known as the Produce Rule. This is the last new regulation we have been tracking under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and our partners have been working on these rules for the past few years, and together our coalition provided FDA with a lot of feedback about how the rules could be effective without creating an unreasonable burden for farmers. You can check out some of our past work here.

The Produce Rule pertains to farms and covers the use of manure and compost; water quality; farmworker hygiene; and other potential causes of food-borne illness. NYFC has been watching this rule very careful, since it will be the primary regulation for food safety on farms. We raised serious concerns with the FDA when this rule was proposed two years ago, and we saw significant improvement in the draft released last year. The final rule closely mirrors the draft.

Our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have the full rundown here, but we thought it would be helpful to summarize the high points of what this means for your farm:

Oranges_IMG_4415_cropWhen do theses regulations take effect?
The earliest deadlines for compliance begin in two years, starting January 2018. For farms that qualify as “small businesses,” which gross no more than $500,000 in produce sales annually (based on a rolling three-year average), compliance begins in January 2019. And for farms that qualify as “very small businesses,” which gross no more than $250,000 in produce sales annually (based on a rolling three-year average), compliance begins in January 2020.

How can I prepare?
Since the rules are so new, there is not a lot of guidance on how farms should ensure they meet the requirements. However, in the next year, the FDA and others will be helping farms sort out these requirements. Keep an eye out for more information on guidance and training next year. In addition, the FDA is asking for specific questions and recommendations for implementing the rule. You can submit those here.

There is one step you can take now.
If you think you will qualify as a small or very small business (grossing less than $500,000 or $250,000 respectively), make sure you are keeping records that reflect that. The FDA is going to want you to demonstrate that your farm meets these thresholds as far back as 2016 once compliance begins. The FDA will release specific guidance on what these records should look like, but until then, it’s a good idea to make sure you save any records you have.