Heitkamp, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Young & Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

A news release today from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) stated that, “U.S. Senators [Heitkamp] and Susan Collins (R., ME) today introduced a bipartisan bill to support programs that help new and beginning farmers and ranchers enter and remain in the industry, build the next generation of farmers, and feed the country and the world.

The Next Generation in Agriculture Act aims to ensure a younger generation of agriculture workers have the education and support they need to begin a career in farming and ranching. Heitkamp, a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, is pushing to incorporate the legislation into the next Farm Bill.

“The average age of a farmer is 57 years old in both North Dakota and Maine, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Across the country, the share of farmers age 65 and older has increased from 14 percent in 1945, to more than 31 percent in 2012. The percentage of new farmers has declined since 1982, and without efforts to cultivate the next generation of farmers, rural economies could suffer.”

The release indicated that, “The Next Generation in Agriculture Act would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more resources to help young and beginning farmers become established in the field of agriculture. Specifically, the bill would:

 ·         Extend the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development (BFRD) program beyond 2018, and would increase the USDA’s support for the program to $30 million in fiscal years 2019-2020, $40 million for fiscal years 2021-2022, and $50 million for fiscal year 2023 and each fiscal year thereafter.

 ·         Emphasize areas of the BFRD program that would include farmers and ranchers who are looking to transition their farming operation to a young or beginning farmer.

 ·         Change the definition in the crop insurance title to define a beginning farmer and rancher as having farmed less than 10 years opposed to 5.

 ·         Create a permanent National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator and Agricultural Youth Coordinator at the USDA, and direct state USDA offices to designate an employee as the state beginning farmer and rancher coordinator.

 ·         Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a next generation agriculture technology challenge competition to provide an incentive for the development of innovative technology that removes barriers to entry in the marketplace for beginning farmers and ranchers.”

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