Agriculture is a growing and vibrant sector of our nation’s economy, yet farming and ranching as a career choice may be one of the most difficult occupations to enter. Despite significant barriers to entry, dedicated people want to farm or ranch and see great opportunities in agriculture.
We need a national strategy and commitment to support beginning farmer and ranchers entering agriculture. With an aging farm population, now is the time to nurture new agriculture start-ups.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [H.R. 3236 / S.1850] 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 and bicameral bill introduced in the House by Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), and in the Senate by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), along with nine original co-sponsors.
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.