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News Release

USDA Announces New Support for Beginning Farmers

Indianapolis, IN, July 3, 2014 – U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Jane Hardisty, announced today the implementation of new Farm Bill measures and other policy changes to improve the financial security of new and beginning farmers, including the newly added military veteran group. Also unveiled is a new website that will provide a centralized, one-stop resource where beginning farmers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed: www.USDA.gov/newfarmers.  

“New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture,” said Hardisty. “The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if we are going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy.”

The new policies will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed. USDA’s new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing services that can help their operations thrive.

USDA’s www.usda.gov/newfarmers has in-depth information for new farmers including: how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education and technical support programs. These issues have been identified as top priorities by new farmers. The website will also feature instructive case studies about beginning farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.

NRCS support of beginning farmers includes:

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP): The Farm Bill reduced the land ownership requirement from seven years to two years under the Wetland Reserve Easement component of ACEP, expanding the opportunity for beginning farmers to participate.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): The Farm Bill continues the Transition Incentives Program (TIP) to facilitate the transfer of land under a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract from retiring farmers to beginning farmers by allowing conservation and land improvements during the last year of the CRP contract. TIP now includes eligibility for military veterans who are beginning farmers. CRP is administered by Farm Service Agency with NRCS providing technical assistance.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): The new Farm Bill extends the policy that reserves five percent of all acres accepted into the program for beginning farmers until FY 2018. The 2014 Farm Bill includes a new preference for beginning farmers who are also veterans.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Beginning farmers, including military veterans who are beginning farmers, receive higher payment rates for implementing practices and priority consideration for funding. The Farm Bill also expands EQIP authority to provide advanced payments to these special emphasis groups and increases the authority to make advanced payment from 30 percent to 50 percent. Five percent of EQIP funds will be reserved for beginning farmers until FY 2018.

Hardisty wants all farmers to know that free technical assistance is available to help them care for their land, including conservation planning. For more information on NRCS services and programs, please contact your local NRCS District Conservationist. To locate the office in your area, please visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/contact/local/ . Information on NRCS programs can also be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/farmbill/

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Contacts:
Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist, 317-295-5801 (jane.hardisty@in.usda.gov)
Gerald Roach, ASTC-Farm Bill Programs, 317-295-5820 (jerry.roach@in.usda.gov)  
Becky Fletcher, State Public Affairs Specialist, 317-295-5825 (rebecca.fletcher@in.usda.gov)