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Latest from Young Farmers


After two years, hundreds of marker bills, and countless meetings, emails, and calls with constituents, Congress is making moves towards advancing a new Farm Bill! On May 1, 2024, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), published a detailed preview of the “Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act of 2024.”  This proposal is a step forward toward a final bill, and in centering the needs of young and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) farmers and ranchers across the country in federal policy. 

Let’s take a closer look at the Senate priorities and how they align with our Young Farmer Agenda, crafted in conversation with our Policy Committee and responses from a survey of over 10,000 young farmers across the country. We are energized to see clear connections between the provisions outlined by the Chairwoman, and the needs expressed over and over again by our coalition. In the coming months, we’ll continue to advocate for a Farm Bill that clearly addresses young farmers’ challenges, ranging from climate change impacts to affordable land and credit. 



Equitable access to affordable, quality farmland is a foundational need of young producers across the country, and is closely linked to accessibility of affordable capital. Given the systemic challenges in securing affordable land and capital, these barriers are even greater for BIPOC farmers. As land transitions out of agriculture at a rate of nearly 2 million acres per year, we cannot wait to address these barriers and make a historic investment in this new generation of farmers and ranchers. 

With the average age of U.S. farmers approaching 60 years old and nearly half of U.S. farmland expected to change hands over the next two decades, the 2023 Farm Bill is our best chance at creating real and lasting policy solutions to this daunting trend that keeps farmland out of reach for so many. The land access crisis jeopardizes our country’s food security and threatens the vitality of our urban and rural communities. 

We are heartened to see that the proposal from Chairwoman Stabenow details several policy shifts that would directly benefit farmers across our network. Unfortunately, this proposal does not include the provisions of the Land Access Security and Opportunities Act, (H.R. 3955, S.2340) or a comprehensive solution to the land access crisis. We remain committed to ensuring that this Farm Bill directly invests in community-led land, credit, and market access projects

The proposal does include necessary provisions to research farmland ownership trends and makes a commitment to supporting organizations working to resolve heirs’ property issues. It reauthorizes and expands the Heirs’ Property Relending Program to offer grants and cooperative agreements, in addition to loans. Further, the proposal invests in legal services for heirs through authorizing cooperative agreements with heirs’ property and fractionated land legal clinics. 

Through Chairwoman Stabenow’s vision, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would also receive additional resources to sharpen its focus on addressing land access challenges through reauthorization and amendment of the Commission on Farm Transitions, originally authorized in the 2018 Farm BIll. This amendment includes an expansion of the Commission’s scope to address unique barriers faced by historically underserved farmers and ranchers. 

Other land access highlights include: 

  • Clarifying and affirming the important role of Buy-Protect-Sell transactions within the Agricultural Land Easement Program, to keep protected land in the hands of farmers;
  • Improving eligibility language for farm ownership loans to recognize one year of farming experience or an established relationship with an approved mentor; and
  • Increasing the total amount an individual borrower may owe on microloans from $50,000 to $100,000.



Farming is both a physically and mentally demanding profession. Unfortunately, the Farm Bill has limited support for farmer health and well-being aside from the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), which has the goal to connect farmers, farmworkers, and other agricultural workers with resources to support their mental and behavioral health. Young Farmers is a recipient of FRSAN in the Northeast region, known as Cultivemos

The Senate framework increases funding for FRSAN to $15 million annually, up from $10 million. It directs the Secretary to submit a report on the state of behavioral and mental health of individuals working in agriculture, as well as opportunities to better serve those individuals through existing national hotlines. 

More funding is definitely a win given the ongoing challenges with mental and behavioral health for farmers, farmworkers, and rural places. Our 2022 Young Farmer survey results confirmed the need for additional support, with 40% of respondents naming personal or family health care costs as “very or extremely challenging.” It is encouraging that the USDA is putting more thought and resources into understanding the problem and improving services.  

In addition to FRSAN, the framework also provides for more financing options for rural healthcare, such as hospitals, telehealth, mental and behavioral health programs, and makes healthcare a priority within a number of Rural Development programs. 

As one farmer shared in the 2022 Young Farmer Survey, “Farming is therapeutic for my own mental and physical issues, and hopefully someday will be for others.”



The Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) is really four programs in one. It is made up of the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), the Value-Added Producer Program (VAPG), and the Regional Food Systems Partnership (RFSP) program. In this section, we’ll focus on VAPG, although we are pleased to see improvements to all four programs. 

VAPG is a grant program for farmers and ranchers to create and market value-added products. The Senate framework removes the matching requirement for VAPG (as well as for FMPP and LFPP). Currently, the program requires a one-to-one match. This places a huge burden on producers and keeps this program out of reach for many young and BIPOC producers, who often have lower incomes or fewer resources to provide matching funds for the grant. The Young Farmer Agenda called for eliminating the matching requirement for Socially Disadvantaged and Economically Distressed applicants, and we’re excited to see a response to that proposal. 

Other market access wins include:

  • Increasing discretionary funding (the amount Congress can approve in their annual budget) for LAMP to $30M per year (up from $20M);
  • Allowing food hubs to be eligible to apply for FMPP, LFPP, and RFSPP;
  • Maintaining the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovation and expansion of its authority to help urban producers acquire farm tract numbers and promote conservation practices;
  • Increased funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program;
  • Improvements to the Produce Prescription Program and the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive; and 
  • Improved processes for farmers to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and participate in other nutrition programs. 



Overall, the framework permanently authorizes conservation programs, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the USDA’s flagship conservation program, and permanently expands the amount of money required to fund these programs. This would mean more money available to directly resource farmers who are interested in implementing conservation practices on their farms. It also expands the purposes and definitions for key conservation programs, like EQIP and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), to include activities that reduce greenhouse gases and are better for the environment.

The framework also creates pathways for small farms to utilize conservation programs through a 10% set-aside within EQIP for small farms. This is something we’ve been advocating for via the Small Farm Conservation Act and is included in the Young Farmer Agenda to improve access to conservation programs for young farmers. 

The framework also incorporates core parts of the Farmer-to-Farmer Education Act, another key Young Farmers conservation priority, to improve access and ensure USDA resources are culturally appropriate for BIPOC producers. The Senate provision (and Farmer to Farmer Education Act) directs USDA to enter into cooperative agreements with groups with the goal of supporting farmer-led conservation education. This is a necessary tool in supporting farmer education as a means of combating climate change–work that is already being led by young and BIPOC farmers. 

Other conservation and water wins include:

  • Expanding the Regional Conservation Partnership Program  to establish or implement state or tribal soil health programs — a huge win for farmers!
  • Establishing a minimum payment of $4,000 for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP); 
  • Doubling the funding available for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials from $25 million to $50 million, and directing 50% of the funding to be used for Soil Health Demonstration Trials; and
  • Permanently authorizing appropriations for the Grazing Land Conservation Initiative at $60 million for each fiscal year.



We are excited to see that, for the first time, the Farm Bill could include provisions for farmworkers. Despite contributing to our society in such a tremendous and essential way—a fact made evident to everyone who lived through the pandemic—farm and food system workers face harsh working conditions, and many live in fear of the various hazards and challenges surrounding them. All workers in the U.S. deserve full labor protections, especially farmworkers and immigrant workers. Our policies should support the transition of immigrants, farmworkers, and food systems workers to farm ownership and other agricultural roles. Creating these pathways would make our agricultural system stronger, more resilient, and diversified.

The Senate Farm Bill framework is a step in that direction, even if just a baby step. The framework creates a Farmworker and Food System Worker Advisory Committee comprised of members who are farm and food system workers. The Committee will advise the Secretary of Agriculture on improving farm and food system worker safety and opportunities for education and job training programs tailored to workers. This framework also put resources behind this proposal to incorporate workers in the Farm Bill. This group would have dedicated funding to support their work, and the framework creates a new grant program with $50 million to support grocery, farm, and food workers during disasters, representing a rare investment from Congress in agricultural workers. 



Federal programs are failing to reach and support the next generation of farmers and ranchers. We are pleased to see some of the updates to the conservation and credit programs to improve access to these critical farm programs. 

One additional improvement is the creation of the Office of Small Farms at USDA. This new office would coordinate across USDA on policies, programs, data, and issues related to small-scale farms and ranches. It would regularly review USDA programs and policies and identify barriers for small farmers and to track application and participation rates in USDA programs so we have better information and data on barriers to USDA programs based on farm size. Each agency and each state would also hire a Small Farm Coordinator to improve access for small-scale farms across agencies and geographies. Additionally, it provides $5 million in mandatory funding annually to provide microgrants to small-scale farmers and ranchers. We know that many young and BIPOC farmers operate on relatively few acres, so we anticipate that this change could support these producers and create new market opportunities. We wait to learn more on how the Senate would define “small” in this context and how they would ensure resources are supporting producers with land access. 

The framework also maintains the Farming Opportunities, Training, and Outreach program (FOTO)–another two-for-one program that is made up of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and the Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Producers (also known as the 2501 program). The framework funds the combined programs at $50 million annually. It also incorporates interpretation and translation services to the program for the first time. The Chairwoman created a new purpose for FOTO which would allow it to include outreach on programs that resolve ownership and succession on farmland with multiple owners. 

Many improvements around USDA access and accountability can be made directly by USDA, without direction from Congress. While Congress is writing the Farm Bill, we are working with USDA to implement other components of the Young Farmer Agenda, like: providing more technical assistance to program applicants, improving and providing more staff training so they can better serve young and BIPOC farmers, and improving data collection and transparency at the Agency.  



While this framework outlines a strong vision for the future of farming, it is not yet a bill or piece of legislation that is making its way through Congress. We are excited to see this progress and also await more details from the Senate Agriculture Committee on how and when we can make comprehensive land access solutions for young and BIPOC farmers a reality

The House is also in Farm Bill negotiations, and we expect to see a draft of their Farm Bill (actual legislation, not an outline) in a couple weeks. Keep up to date on the latest Farm Bill developments and take action on the upcoming House Farm Bill by signing up for our Action Network (and opt into texts!). Let your Members of Congress know what you want to see in the Farm Bill by taking our actions and by sending this blog post to your Members of Congress

Though there is much work ahead to reach a bipartisan agreement on the details of the next Farm Bill, we are excited to see this progress, and will continue to advocate for the policy priorities of the young and BIPOC farmers in our network.
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