Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Assessment Recommends Improvements to National Beginning Farmer & Rancher Grants Program


Popular federal program serves public, beginning farmers
Contact: Megan Buckingham, Land Stewardship Project, 612-722-6377; Ferd Hoefner, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 202-547-5754

Minneapolis, Minn., June 3, 2015 — The nation’s leading public training program for assisting beginning farmers and ranchers is more popular than ever, and with some key adjustments could better fulfill Congress’s intent to target public funding to community-based organizations that conduct beginning farmer education and training.  Those are two conclusions of an assessment of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which was released today by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP).

The assessment, published by LSP in collaboration with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), is intended to help policy makers and public officials better understand how BFRDP funding, provided through the federal farm bill, is distributed and to evaluate its administrative and programmatic strengths and weaknesses.  LSP’s 2014 BFRDP Progress Report analyzes the most recent round of project grants in the context of trends in recent years. LSP and NSAC have collaborated on an assessment of BFRDP each year that the program has awarded grants.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, BFRDP is a competitive grants program that funds community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, state cooperative extension, and producer groups to provide training and support to beginning farmers and ranchers.

Since the program was launched in 2009, BFRDP has awarded more than $90 million to 184 projects across the nation, and is a key publicly supported effort to ensure the success of the next generation of American family farmers.

In 2014, USDA awarded $18.9 million in BFRDP grants to 39 projects across 28 states. Interest in the program increased in this most recent funding round, in which 157 applicants competed for funding, compared with 109 in 2012, the last year the grants were offered.

As in other years, the 2014 report pays particular attention to the Congressional intent to prioritize community-based organizations when it comes to BFRDP funding, and to set aside funding for projects that serve socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.  In 2014, for the first time since 2009, less than 50 percent of the funding was awarded to projects led by community-based or nonprofit organizations. Instead, the majority of the funding was directed to projects led by land grant universities and other academic institutions.

LSP, NSAC and the groups’ allies are urging USDA to assure that the majority of BFRDP funding is allocated to projects led by community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations over the next four years, as it had been in the three previous funding cycles.

Overall, eight recommendations are made in the report, including one to continue to award no less than 25 percent of BFRDP funding to projects that primarily target socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

The full report and recommendations are available on LSP’s website at: http://landstewardshipproject.org/repository/1/1543/bfrdp_report_2014.pdf.

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