Even though agriculture is a growing and vibrant sector of our nation’s economy, farming and ranching as a career choice is one of the most difficult occupations to enter. There are significant barriers to entry, and very little support for beginning farmers and ranchers entering agriculture. With an aging farm population, now is the time to nurture new agriculture start-ups.
So just in the nick of time, The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [H.R. 3236] is being introduced. It is a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill, that highlights federal programs that help support economic opportunities for young and beginning farmers and ranchers. The bill addresses many of the barriers that new agriculture entrepreneurs face such as limited access to land and markets, hyper land price inflation, high input costs, and a lack of sufficient support networks. The Act is a bipartisan bill introduced in the House by Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and an identical companion bill will be introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the Senate.
The bill is a result of strategic collaboration among many individuals and farmer advocacy organizations, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and many NSAC member groups, including Land Stewardship Project, Center for Rural Affairs, National Young Farmers’ Coalition, California FarmLink, and Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance, among others.
With anything that comes before Congress these days, it’s truly a wait and see approach, but hopefully there is an opportunity here that can benefit us all.