Investing in Rural America’s Future PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Monday, 31 October 2011 14:31

Rural development program has great potential for rural job creation nationally

Lyons, Nebraska -  A Center for Rural Affairs report released today examines USDA’s Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which was the only new rural development initiative to receive mandatory funding in the 2008 Farm Bill, and the extent to which grant recipient organizations provide microenterprise development services on a national scale.

“Congress should reauthorize RMAP and continue mandatory funding,” said Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs Director of Rural Research and Analysis and author of the report. “RMAP has had barely a year to demonstrate its merit. Excluding it from the next Farm Bill would destroy a promising and needed strategy in its infancy.”

According to Bailey, RMAP is designed to provide funding to development organizations in the form of loans to relend to rural small businesses and grants to provide training and technical assistance to those small business borrowers or potential borrowers, with the goals to create jobs in and strengthen America’s rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency overseeing RMAP, has announced three rounds of RMAP grant awards (October 28, 2010, March 9, 2011, and June 30, 2011, and a total of 89 awards were made to the same number of entities representing all or parts of 39 states.

The Center for Rural Affairs report, which can be viewed in full or downloaded here -- -- also maps the location of all RMAP awardees and their service areas.

“The economic future of rural places will be done a disservice by the next Farm Bill if initiatives such as RMAP that create rural jobs and opportunities for economic growth are not afforded time to prove their long-term worth,” Bailey explained. “In the current budgetary climate, we know that Farm Bill funding faces serious cuts. But we have maintained for years that real reform of farm programs and crop insurance, with effective subsidy limits and closure of payment limit loopholes, can save money to be reinvested in initiatives like RMAP as well as deficit reduction.”

According to Bailey’s report, self-employment and small business is the core of the rural economy, and the real job creators in rural areas. For example, since 1969, the number of self-employed workers in rural areas has grown by over 240 percent (by comparison, rural wage and salary workers witnessed only a 61 percent growth over the same period). RMAP represents the largest ever expansion of rural microenterprise business development resources, an investment intended to tap into the obvious potential of rural entrepreneurial development.

Other key findings in Bailey’s report include:

  • the total service area population of the RMAP awardees is 115.1 million people, about 37 percent of the total population of the United States (based on the 2010 Census);
  • a total of 32.7 million rural residents in RMAP awardee service areas, about two-thirds of the total U.S. rural population;
  • 324 counties in RMAP service areas are also counties that have suffered high levels of outmigration and declining population.

“This is a rural development program that has demonstrated real potential for creating jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities across the country, and even in the current budgetary climate, is a worthy investment in America’s future,” concluded Bailey.

Pheasants Forever Adds New Pair of Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Pheasants Forever   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:28

Now seven biologists helping to improve pheasant and quail habitat in Iowa

Iowa – October 24, 2011 – Pheasants Forever announces new Farm Bill Biologists in west-central and east-central Iowa. Dustin Farnsworth will cover Carroll and Crawford Counties, while Jeff Potts will cover Linn, Jones and Johnson Counties. The additional positions come at an especially critical juncture for Iowa, where the state’s pheasant population is at a modern record low.

These two new positions are the latest results in Pheasants Forever’s Reload Iowa effort, a statewide initiative to improve 1 million acres of wildlife habitat on private and public land in the state. Pheasants Forever now has seven Farm Bill Biologists in the state, who work to provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers—through one-on-one consulting—regarding the benefits of conservation programs (such as the Conservation Reserve Program).

Pheasants Forever now has seven Farm Bill Biologist positions in Iowa. "These positions are new to Iowa and will help the partnership provide conservation assistance in five new counties," said Steve Riley, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist Manager, "This represents a large stride for Pheasants Forever and the wildlife in Iowa." The positions were created through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), local soil and water conservation districts, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Pheasants Forever chapters and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Dustin Farnsworth – Carroll and Crawford Counties
Farnsworth grew up hunting and fishing in Iowa’s Greene and Guthrie Counties, going on to complete a B.S. in ecology and an M.S. in Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University. Farnsworth’s experience managing grasslands spans three different states and multiple agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, NRCS and Iowa State University. Farnsworth is also involved with his family’s 6th generation family farm in Guthrie County. Farnsworth looks forward to working with Carroll and Crawford County producers and landowners interested in restoring phenomenal pheasant hunting to Iowa’s landscape. Farnsworth can be contacted at (712) 792-1212 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Jeff Potts – Linn, Jones and Johnson Counties
Most recently, Potts worked as a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist in southwestern North Dakota. Potts grew up in south-central Minnesota, and earned his degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from South Dakota State University. Prior to joining Pheasants Forever, Potts was an integral member of the habitat and fisheries team at South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Jeff can be reached at 319-377-5960 ext. 3 / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Iowa is home to 103 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever chapters and more than 19,500 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members. For more info, visit Iowa Pheasants Forever.

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 130,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.

Center for Rural Affairs applauds Beginning Farmer and Rancher Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Traci Bruckner   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:21

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act introduced Today

Lyons, NE - The Center for Rural Affairs praised the introduction today of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, a cross-cutting initiative aimed at helping the next generation of farmers and ranchers enter into agriculture and take advantage of emerging markets.  The bill is sponsored by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Representative Tim Walz (D-MN). Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee will introduce a companion bill in the Senate when next in session.

“We commend Senator Harkin and the other sponsors for introducing this bill. Their legislation is smart, cost-effective public policy that will create jobs and invest in the future of rural America,” said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director for Rural Policy of the Center for Rural Affairs. “It addresses obstacles that often prevent beginning farmers and ranchers from getting their operation started.”

“As the average age of the American farmer continues to increase, it is critical for the well-being of rural America that young people engage in farming and agricultural entrepreneurship. This legislation provides common-sense incentives to young farmers and ranchers, helping overcome the initial challenges facing those who wish to establish their careers in agriculture and raise families on the farm,” said Representative Jeff Fortenberry who represents Nebraska’s first Congressional district and is a co-sponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act contains several key elements, including:

  • Reauthorizing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a beginning farmer and rancher training and support initiative. It would increase mandatory funding from $75 million to $125 million over the next 5 years to help meet growing demand for the program, and include a new priority on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for military veterans.
  • $30 million in annual funding for the Value Added Producer Grants Program and will retain the priority for projects benefiting beginning farmers and ranchers as well as a set-aside of program funding for these projects.
  • Creating savings and enhancing lending provisions that help beginning farmers and ranchers access credit and establish a pattern of savings.
  • Providing conservation incentives to assist beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to establish conservation practices and sustainable systems on their farms and ranches.

“When you compare the numbers from the 2007 and 2002 Census of Agriculture, you see a big drop in the number of younger farmers in agriculture as their primary occupation. The revitalization of rural America depends, in large part, on reversing that trend,” explained Bruckner.

“It can be difficult to get started in the world of agriculture,” said Garrett Dwyer, a beginning rancher and former Marine infantryman from Bartlett, NE. “Skyrocketing costs of buying or renting land make entry into farming and ranching a daunting task.” Dwyer traveled to D.C. in June to participate in a nationwide fly-in called, “Sound Investments to ensure the Next Generation of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.”

According to Dwyer, more beginning farmers and ranchers are needed because without a new generation of beginners, the land will concentrate in large farms. “And that will cause the permanent loss of opportunity for family farms, ranches, and rural communities and squander the chance to shift to a more sustainable system of agriculture,” explained Dwyer.

Bruckner explained that the introduction of these bills in both the House and the Senate is a crucial step in focusing more of the public investment in the 2012 farm bill on the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Congressional investment in beginning farmers and ranchers is an investment, by all Americans, in the future of rural America.  

“And it is money well spent,” continued Bruckner.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Challenges 84th National FFA Convention Participants to Pursue Careers in Agriculture PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications Office   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:08

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., Oct. 22, 2011 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke to the 84th National FFA Convention about the critical need to recruit and support the nation’s next generation of farmers and ranchers.

“America’s producers are the most productive and successful in the world – with a willingness to embrace change, new science and innovative technologies to fulfill the noble task of feeding a nation,” said Vilsack. “To continue that success, we need organizations like FFA working creatively to build policies, structures and institutions that will ensure the next generation can continue to feed and fuel the world.”

USDA’s focus on developing new generations of beginning farmers and ranchers is a result of America’s aging farming community.  In the last five years there has been a 20% decrease in the number of farmers under 45.  Today the average American farmer is 57 whereas five years ago it was 55.  Today, nearly 30% of American farmers are over the age of 65 – almost double what it is in the general workforce.

Secretary Vilsack highlighted USDA programs that are committed to investing more resources and energy to recruit the next generation of farmers and to finding strategies to make these beginning farmers successful.  The USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach assists people who want to learn about USDA’s efforts to support new producers. In the past two years, more than 40% of all USDA’s farm loans have gone to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The Farm Service Agency provides Beginning Farmer and Rancher loans. These are direct and guaranteed loans to beginning farmers and ranchers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources. Each fiscal year, the Agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan funds to beginning farmers and ranchers.  In addition, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides funding to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is working with partners to support young, motivated entrepreneurs who are looking past traditional ways of bringing products to market. Through RMA funding for the Farm Credit Council, the “Field Guide to the New American Foodshed” was developed to assist the growing numbers of direct-market farms and ranches and also the lenders, accountants and other businesses who work with them.

Additionally, the USDA Nation Agricultural Library is working in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation to develop a ‘Curriculum and Training Clearinghouse’ at, which will serve as a national one-stop source of all beginning farmer and rancher education and training materials online.

“The future of agriculture is bright and will present the next generation with incredible opportunities to pursue," said Vilsack. “Young people should continue to engage in policy that affects them – but they shouldn’t be limited by it. We need them to think big, innovate, and tackle the important challenges facing American agriculture and the nation as a whole.”


Lt. Governor Simon announces winners of USDA farmers market grant PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Kara Beach   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 11:58

Funding will help expand local food access in Illinois


CARBONDALE – October 19, 2011. An advocate for rural communities, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced today that four grants from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) have been awarded to organizations in Illinois.

“This funding will help local food producers grow their operations and provide greater access to local foods,” said Simon, the only constitutional officer from Southern Illinois. “Expanding local foods in Illinois is good for the health of our citizens and our economy.”

The FMPP provides grants to projects that help improve and expand farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agri-tourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities. Priority was given to projects that expanded healthy food choices in food deserts.

Simon chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council (GRAC), which is working to eliminate barriers to local food production in Illinois. The Lt. Governor will host GRAC’s quarterly meeting today from 2 to 4 p.m. at John A. Logan College in Carterville.

Simon promoted the availability of FMPP funding and wrote a letter of support on behalf of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, helping secure $81,058 to establish a Farmers Market Association that will provide professional development, resources and support for farmers, markets, and communities. This will include development of a farmers market manager training manual and a statewide database to connect farmers to markets.

“Southern Illinois University applauds Lt. Governor Simon for her work and encouragement of the growth and expansion of home grown food markets,” SIU President Glenn Poshard said. “These venues provide nutritional and affordable sources of food and serve as a novel and innovative way to strengthen our rural economies.

Another Southern Illinois organization, Food Works of Carbondale, was awarded $89,648 to conduct a comprehensive training and mentoring program for 60 new farmers and ranchers in Southern Illinois so that they can establish farmers markets, roadside stands and other direct-marketing venues. Food Works is scheduled to present its plans for the grant at today’s GRAC meeting.

Other winners include:

  • Growing Home Inc., of Chicago, received $79,300 to establish a new farm stand for the sale of vegetables from its urban farm, purchase refrigeration equipment and other marketing supplies, and conduct educational programs.
  • Faith in Place, of Chicago, got $39,270 to help grow its 15 Chicago-area winter farmers markets and support the development of a congregational-supported Community Supported Agriculture program in Champaign.

The FMPP made an investment of over $9.2 million this year and gave out 149 awards in 42 states across the country.


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