Young farmers visit the office of Senator Snowe in Maine

Yesterday was one of the most important moments in the 2012 Farm Bill process, the Senate Agriculture Committee vote. 

Thanks to so many of you who took action over the last week and our partner organizations that joined with us on Farm Bill priorities, the bill that passed out of the Senate committee included some seriously good things for young and beginning farmers:

More affordable capital for your farm and great terms under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program

  • The Senate draft changed the requirement that a farmer must have ‘operated’ a farm for 3 years to be eligible for a farm ownership loan to ‘participated in a farm operation’ for 3 years. This change will enable farm workers who have not owned their own farm businesses to be eligible for Farm Service Agency direct farm ownership loans. 
  • More farmers will be able to take advantage of the FSA’s down payment loan program under new, higher financing limits. 
  • Not in the bill, but because of our continued advocacy through the Farm Bill process, the Farm Service Agency will be announcing a new microloan program in the coming months. This program will allow farmers to borrow up to $35,000 with much less paperwork and hassle. 
  • The cost share for beginners under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program was reaffirmed, providing essential financial support for farmers building everything from high tunnels to animal fencing and irrigation. 

Progress on Land Access

  • Under the new, consolidated farmland protection program, the purpose of the program is expanded to include “promoting agricultural viability for future generations.” Rather than only “protecting natural resources and the agricultural nature of the land,” the new language would enable USDA to prioritize funding for easements that keep farmers on the land.   
  • The Transition Incentives Program, that promotes the transfer of land in the Conservation Reserve Program to beginning farmers, was reauthorized and given mandatory funding. 

It’s incredible how far our coalition has come — but there is still a lot of work to do before these valuable policies become law. We must pull together to defend these changes and other critical programs — and work like crazy to win back funding for beginning farmer training that was cut by 50%.

Please help us keep up the fight for young and beginning farmers by making a contribution to NYFC. We do a lot with a little over here, and your dollars make a huge difference!

Thanks for all that you do,

The National Young Farmers’ Coalition

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