On April 29th, 2021, Davon Goodwin, Board President of the National Young Farmers Coalition, testified in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee about diversifying on-farm income and opportunities to strengthen rural communities in the U.S. Davon, owner of Off the Land (OTL) Farms in Laurinburg, North Carolina, spoke to the barriers he and other young, BIPOC, and veteran farmers face.
Davon began the hearing recounting his own experience with leasing and purchasing farmland, naming student loan debt as one major barrier he faced to land access. As he said during the hearing, “Land is fundamental, but land is just the beginning. Farming is a capital intensive undertaking – you need land as well as tractors and equipment, plants and inputs.” Farming is also risky, and is becoming more so in the face of climate change. As seasons become less predictable, Davon mentioned the crucial role crop diversification can play in reducing the risk of farming.
During the hearing, Davon advocated for improving and increasing the funding of specific programs that can better serve new and beginning farmers, such as the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) that would build stronger local and regional markets and support revenue diversification for producers. Davon called for investment in beginning farmer and rancher training opportunities for young farmers and increased funding to support socially disadvantaged farmers, veteran farmers, and rural communities. He also implored the USDA to make their loan programs more accessible. The USDA offers low-interest rate loans that could be beneficial for farmers, yet a 2017 Young Farmers survey found that 40% of farm owners found USDA applications too burdensome. Simplifying and modernizing the application process, as well as instituting a quicker turnaround, would make applying for these loans more accessible.
You can watch Davon’s entire testimony here.