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Small & Limited and Beginning Farmers & Ranchers

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers.  It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services.  Enhancements include streamlined delivery of technical and financial assistance; improved programs and services; and flexibility in decision making (with most decisions made at the Tribal, State or local level).


A Beginning Farmer or Rancher means an individual or entity who:

  • has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years.  This requirement applies to all family members of an entity
  • Will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch
    • In the case of a contract with an individual, individually or with immediate family, material and substantial participation requires that the individual provide substantial day-to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch, consistent with the practices in the county or State where the farm is located
    • In the case of a contract with an entity, all members must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.  Material and substantial participation requires that each of the members provide some amount of the management, or labor and management necessary for day-to-day activities, such that if each of the members did not provide these inputs, operation of the farm or ranch would be seriously impaired.

Socially Disadvantaged

A socially disadvantaged group is a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group, without regard to their individual qualities.  These groups consist of the following:

  • American Indians or Alaskan Natives
  • Asians
  • Blacks or African Americans
  • Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders
  • Hispanics

Note: Gender alone is not a covered group for the purposes of NRCS conservation programs.

A socially disadvantaged applicant is an individual or entity who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. For an entity, at least 50 percent ownership in the farm business must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals.

Note: One member of an eligible entity may certify for all members rather than have each member self-certify.

Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher

A Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher or Forest Owner is an applicant:

  • with direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous 2 years, and
  • who has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family or four,  or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous 2 years

An entity or joint operation can be a Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher if all individual members independently qualify.

Limited Resource Farmer Self-Determination Tool

The purpose of this self determination tool is to enable potential limited resource farmers and ranchers to ascertain eligibility for various USDA programs and benefits.

Indian Tribes

Indian Tribe means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including and Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) that is Federally recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.