USDA accepting applications for Beginning Farmer and Rancher grants

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, April 11, 2014 -- USDA says it is now accepting applications for more than $19 million in grant money available through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The grants will be competitively awarded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Applications will be accepted through June 12.

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The program is designed to help farmers or ranchers in practice for 10 or fewer years with education, training, technical assistance and outreach. The 2014 farm bill authorized $100 million for the program to be awarded over the next five years. The program was originally authorized in the 2008 farm bill.

Juli Obudzinski, a senior policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said the program is important for beginning farmers because they are usually younger and have less experience than more established farmers.   

“They also tend to operate smaller farms, have more diversified operations, and an increasing number come from non-farm backgrounds with little access to farmland, which has traditionally been passed down from generation to generation,” she added.

USDA gives priority to projects that are partner or collaborations with non-governmental, community-based, or school-based agricultural educational organizations. All applicants must provide funds or in-kind support from non-federal sources in an amount that is equal to 25 percent of the federal funds requested.

At least 5 percent of available funding will be allocated to programs and services for limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged beginning farmers, ranchers and farmworkers. Another 5 percent of available funding will be allocated for programs for farmers and ranchers who are military veterans.

NIFA will present webinars for applicants on April 30 and May 6 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. The first webinar will focus on general guidelines for the program, while the second will focus on the funding allocations for the socially-disadvantaged and military veterans.

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