April 25, 2013

Contact: lindsey(at)youngfarmers(dot)org

Republicans and Democrats Introduce New Bill To Aid Beginning Farmers

“Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013” addresses major barriers to starting a farming career

TIVOLI, NY – Today, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota announced the introduction of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two identical bills expand opportunities and remove barriers for beginning farmers and those who wish to pursue a career in agriculture.

In addition to the bill’s lead sponsors, the following members have signed on as original co-sponsors: Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), Chris Gibson (R-NY-19), and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) in the House, and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate.

“Short of jumping on a tractor, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 is the best way that members of Congress can help the nation’s young growers,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director at the National Young Farmers Coalition. “The bill tackles the significant barriers to starting a farm in the US, including access to credit, land and training opportunities. NYFC urges Congress to include all of its provisions in the Farm Bill, and to pass a Farm Bill this year.”

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act is a comprehensive legislative package that invests in critical federal conservation, credit, research, and rural development programs that support opportunities for new farmers and ranchers. The bill reduces barriers, such as credit and land access issues, that new agriculture entrepreneurs face, and invests in successful new-farmer training programs and grants to help farmers capture more of the retail food dollar through value-added enterprises.

“With the average age of the U.S. farmer at 57, ensuring that the next generation of American farmers is able to provide the world with a safe, abundant supply of food should be a top priority,” said Congressman Walz, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry. “To accomplish this goal, we must provide our youth with the training and tools they need to seize opportunity and take up farms of their own. By easing access to lines of credit and land, and creating training programs for new producers, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act works to do just that.”

“As the House considers a five year Farm Bill this year, it is important we include provisions to encourage a new generation of New Yorkers to take up farming.  This is both critical to maintaining the rural nature of our communities and ultimately is a national security issue as we need to have a robust domestic food supply. This bipartisan legislation will expand opportunities for those looking to take up farming and facilitate their entrance into the field.  I applaud the National Young Farmers Coalition for bringing this issue to my attention originally, and look forward to continuing to work with my constituents to ensure we can get these initiatives included in the Farm Bill,” said Congressman Chris Gibson.

Some of the specific proposals in the bill include:

Expanded Credit Options

The bill would create a new microloan program that would make loans of up to $35,000 to young, beginning, and veteran farmers seeking capital to help cover start-up costs, such as purchasing seeds or building a greenhouse. The bill would also give new farmers increased flexibility in meeting loan eligibility requirements for FSA loans to purchase farmland. Finally, the bill would provide funding to jump start an Individual Development Account pilot program aimed at helping beginning farmers with limited financial resources to establish savings accounts that could later be used to cover capital expenditures for a farm or ranch operation, including purchases of land, buildings, equipment, or livestock. 

Access to Farmland

The legislation would help new and aspiring farmers access land to start or expand their farming operations by continuing and improving the successful Down Payment Loan Program, which provides much needed capital to new farmers seeking to purchase property. The bill would also modify the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program to give priority to preserving farmland that is accessible and affordable to new farmers.

New Farmer Training Programs

The bill would renew funding for the successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provides grants to organizations and institutions to establish new farmer training programs. This program is the only federal initiative that is exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Value-Added Enterprises

This legislation invests in critical economic development programs, including the popular Value-Added Producer Grants program, which provides grants to farmers to scale up their businesses and add value to their products in order to meet surging consumer demand for high quality, farm-based, value-added food products such as farmstead cheese, salsa, and grass-fed beef.

Agricultural Opportunities for Veterans

The bill would also expand resources and create economic opportunities for military veterans interested in pursuing a career in agriculture by establishing a funding priority for new farmer training and agricultural rehabilitation programs specifically geared at returning veterans, and creating a new Veterans Agricultural Liaison within the USDA to help connect returning veterans with beginning farmer resources and assist them with program eligibility requirements for participation in farm bill programs.


National Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC) is national network of young and sustainable farmers organizing for our collective success: we’re defining the issues that beginning farmers face, fighting for the policy change that we need, and bringing farmers together in person and online to learn, share and build a stronger community. NYFC is a farmer-led partnership between young farmers and innovative beginning farmer service providers and is fiscally sponsored by the Open Space Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  


8 Responses to “Republicans and Democrats Introduce New Bill To Aid Beginning Farmers”
  1. Elaina Esch says:

    My husband and I have been trying to find out more information regarding The beginning farmer network. He is an Air Force Veteran. His job in the financial industry has been getting worse in this economy. I am a stay at home mom (4 children) We would like to know if there is such a program in California and how we go about looking into this? Our 14yr old is very interested in farming too as are our other children. We greatly appreciate any guidance.
    Thank You and God Bless,
    Elaina Esch.

  2. Wes says:

    Hi Elaina,
    Thanks for contacting us. We work with a few different groups in California who organize beginning farmers (see the directory here:, and there are many state resources that your family could look into. I’d recommend taking a look at:
    NYFC’s list of educational resources:
    NYFC’s list of jobs and land listings for the state:

    Hope this helps! Feel free to contact us at if there’s anything else we can do.

  3. Hi Elaina,

    I would also recommend that you get in touch with the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

    They are a wonderful organization that supports returning vets who are pursuing farming careers.



  4. Taylor Reid says:

    I second Lindsey’s recommendation of the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
    You can also check out Beginning Farmer Veteran Training Programs at:
    The blog (homepage) also regularly provides updates on veteran farming issues.

  5. Kent says:

    Hello , I,m trying to find out about the beginning farm program for IL and North Carolina.
    Can someone help me?
    Thank you

  6. Wes says:

    Hi Kent,
    You can find plenty of beginning farmer programs on our directory here:

    Thanks for your interest!

  7. Dean pallas says:

    My son will graduate high school in May and is planning on attending college going into agribusiness and wants to farm. My nephew is a jr in high school and also wants to farm. My life dream has also been to farm which I do part time. I have been farming for around 25 years part time my family farm which comes to about 300 acres. I work 40 hours a week and some overtime and farm on weekends. My son and nephew are very interested in farming they been helping me for years like to get going on their own but it’s very hard to find ground to rent without paying a high dollar cash rent and that is our biggest dilemma is trying to get the ground, was wondering if there is any government assistance or where I need to go to contact someone to find out more information thank you very much

  8. Wes says:

    Hi Dean,
    Thanks for reaching out to us. There are indeed many options, and it’s hard to give specific advice, since it depends so much on exactly what your business plan is, your exact finances, your location, etc. However, I would be happy to try to point you in the right direction for figuring out your next steps. We have a listing of resources that you can access here: . However, I would strongly suggest that a good first step would be to find some local support – you could either try contacting your local extension offices ( or if you’re thinking about specific programs that you already know about, you could talk to the correct USDA office, using this tool:

    I hope this helps, and best of luck!

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