The No. 2 official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture came to UC Davis on Monday and announced the launch of a website and other measures to help beginning farmers.
New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden said at a meeting of the departments Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, which had been dormant until recently.
The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy, Harden said.
Harden said the new website www.usda.gov/newfarmers will serve as a one-stop shop for farmers just starting out, regardless of age, and seeking help with everything from crop insurance to farm loans. The site has information on obtaining land and capital, participating in conservation efforts and managing risk. Information on education and technical support is also included.
These issues have been identified as top priorities by new farmers, the department said in a news release.
The effort is part of the USDAs response to concerns that many farmers are nearing retirement age but few are taking their place. In recent years, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has called for 100,000 new farmers to invigorate American agriculture.
I think theyre identifying that the older generation is in dire need of some replacements, some young people to turn to farming as a profession, said Hallie Muller, 28, who returned to work on her parents Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley after studying agricultural science at California State University, Chico.
Farming is an incredibly difficult industry to get into, especially financially, Muller said. Having access to land with water is key but hard to manage if you dont come from a farming background or have independent wealth, she said.
Other policy changes Harden announced Monday were part of the 2014 Farm Bill. They included fee waivers for new farmers who enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which compensates growers for damaged crops not covered by crop insurance.
The department also said in a news release that it would increase payments to new farmers under the Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program, which protects against loss of livestock, such as bees.
The USDA also said it plans to discount crop insurance premiums for beginning farmers and to waive administrative fees.
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