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Iowa Ag News Headlines
Education, Mentoring, Technical Assistance Programs Funded
Iowa Ag Connection - 12/07/2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)announced awards made to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The BFRDP program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, aims to help address issues associated with the rising age and decrease in the number of U.S. farmers and ranchers.

"According to the 2012 Agriculture Census undertaken by the National Agricultural Statistics Survey, the average age of the American farmer is approximately 59 years old," said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. "The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides the training and resources to attract a wide range of communities -- veterans, refugees, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, women, individuals from underrepresented groups, small farmers, aspiring farm workers, and others -- into farming and ranching."

BFRDP supports projects that deliver education, mentoring, and technical assistance programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and its territories with entering, establishing, building and managing successful farm and ranch enterprises.

There are 36 grants totaling $17.7 million funded through fiscal year 2017's BFRDP. They include Practical Farmers of Iowa, Ames, which will receive $577,965.

These projects provide valuable training, education, and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers either entering into or improving their success in farming, ranching, and management of private forest lands. The knowledge, skills, and tools needed to make informed decisions for their operations, and enhance their sustainability will be provided by awardees such as Florida International University and Alabama A&M University. Florida International University will train and transition farm workers and veterans into farmers and nursery growers, and Alabama A&M University will provide opportunities on training and sustaining farm opportunities for veterans and limited income populations through collaboration, mentoring, and experiential learning.

Previous BFRDP awards demonstrate the positive impacts of this program on the success of farmers and ranchers. The University of Arkansas led a team of experts from the University of Missouri, Appalachian State University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and the Farmer Veteran Coalition to develop targeted mentoring programs nationwide for beginning farmers and ranchers that emphasize business practices and marketing opportunities, such as a "veteran-grown" label program. The "Armed to Farm" program helped 99 veterans prepare to start farming, and 228 veterans improve their farming success. The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship in Wisconsin is the first formal apprenticeship for farming in the nation. It provides training to help transition farm ownership to the next generation of beginning farmers and aims to establish a standard career pathway for beginning dairy producers in support of profitable and sustainable businesses. The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship enrolled 140 approved Master training farms in 10 states with 43 active apprentices, 18 graduates, and 241 candidates for apprenticeship.

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