Friday, February 26, 2010

New and beginning farmers head to Capitol Hill

JoelNext week, I'll travel to Washington, D.C., for the upcoming "Drake Forum on America's New Farmers: Policy Innovations and Opportunities" on behalf of Farm Aid.

I'm excited because this Forum begins a long over-due national discussion on new and beginning farmer policy issues, with the goal of identifying great ideas that can be replicated to get new farmers on the land throughout the country. A wide range of stakeholders, including farmers, USDA officials, Senate and House leaders, academics, industry representatives, and many sustainable farming organizations in Farm Aid's Farmer Resource Network, will take part in the two-day conference.

The Forum is being organized by Neil Hamilton, the director of the Drake University Agricultural Law Center. Neil's brilliant proposal for a federally supported New Farmers Corps is one of many ideas that will be discussed.

In addition, the day before the conference, Farm Aid is participating in a "New Farmer Fly-In" spearheaded by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). The fly-in will bring new farmers from eight different states to D.C. for meetings at the USDA and on Capitol Hill. The farmers' travel costs are being covered thanks to a cooperative effort between Forum organizers, NSAC, Farm Aid, the Center for Rural Affairs, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, Land Stewardship Project, Practical Farmers of Iowa, California Farm Link, Land for Good, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the Quivira Coalition, and the CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food.

With this focus on new farmers, now is a good time to remind everyone that April 6 is the deadline for grant proposals for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Grants are awarded primarily to non-profit and community-based organizations to develop and offer new farmer education, outreach, mentoring and internships programs. See this page for details.

I'll be reporting from D.C. next week so stay tuned for an insider look at how farmers effect change in Washington!


  1. Joel,

    this is a great idea and its awesome to see Farm Aid's work with new farmers. We often hear only of the folks on hard times and struggling, but there is still opportunity for beginning farmers ..but it will take work, cooperation, patience, and time for this new generation.

    Kudos to you, Farm Aid and Neil Hamilton's work!

  2. Wonderful! Great work that would benefit everyone.

  3. Anonymous2:15 PM

    CRP (conservation reserve program) is killing young farmers! You can receive more money to idle your farm rather than to rent it to a farmer. In my area good pasture is $40 per acre. Crp pays $90. I can't compete with that and why would someone pass up $50 per acre to rent to me? When land sits idle there is no reason to buy inputs from local merchants, no need to buy cows, or pay trucking. Wouldn't it be more economically efficient to subsize begining farmers' rents and let the farmer spend money building their business (economic multiplier effect)? The whole community would prosper. Good, sustaianable farming benefits the land and animals as well as the taxpayers! (I am 31 and would like to rent more ground.)

  4. Rosanita2:46 PM

    Why not use Americorps, which already exists? In it there are VISTA volunteers, regular Americorps volunteers and Senior Corps volunteers. While I believe that there should be something available to farmers, I think that Americorps and what's in place should be utilized. I do like the grant program mentioned in the end, especially the mentoring. Just my 2 cents.