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.


Grassley, Johnson Press for Farm Payment Limits to be Included in Deficit Reduction Talks PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 24 October 2011 15:27
WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Tim Johnson have requested that the deficit reduction committee save more than $1.5 billion by including their legislation that places a hard cap on farm payments at $250,000 per married couple ($125,000 per individual).


“Our bill maintains the much needed safety net for farmers so we are assured that the American people will have a safe, abundant and inexpensive food supply.  It also closes loopholes that have reduced urban support for the farm bill,” Grassley said.  “This is an easy way to save some additional funds in what’s a very difficult task for the committee.”


“Particularly given the budget environment we’re in, it’s important that our farm programs are effectively targeted to those who need the assistance the most: the small and medium-sized family farmers.  I hope that our bill can be incorporated into any recommendations made by the deficit reduction committee,” said Johnson.


Grassley and Johnson introduced the legislation on June 9, 2011.  The legislation would set a limit of $250,000 for married couples for farm payments in an attempt to better target farm program payments to family farmers.  Specifically, the bill caps direct payments at $40,000; counter-cyclical payments at $60,000; and marketing loan gains (including forfeitures), loan deficiency payments, and commodity certificates at $150,000.  The bill also improves the standard which the Department of Agriculture uses to determine farmers who are actively engaged in their operations.


Here is a copy of the text of the letter.  A signed copy of the letter can be found by clicking here.



October 14, 2011


The Honorable Patty Murray                         The Honorable Jeb Hensarling

Co-Chair                       Co-Chair

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction            Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

The Capitol                        The Capitol

Washington, D.C.                           Washington, D.C.


Dear Senator Murray and Representative Hensarling:


We are truly in uncharted territory with the debt reduction process now before us.  We are hard pressed to recall any process quite as unique as this one during our careers here in Congress.  You and the rest of the Joint Select Committee have a big task in front of you, and surely there will be some difficult decisions made in the coming weeks.


With all the hard decisions before you, we are providing a proposal that should be a common sense change to agriculture policy.  It is time for us to finally set hard payment limits on all commodity farm programs, as well as close the loopholes in current payment limitation law.


The specific changes we are proposing to the Joint Select Committee are contained in the bill we introduced, the Rural America Preservation Act of 2011 (S.1161).  That bill would do the following:


  • It would establish caps of $20,000 on direct (fixed) payments, $30,000 on counter cyclical payments, and $75,000 on loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains.


  • The combined limit for married couples would be $250,000.  These limits would be reduced by varying amounts depending on the farmer’s participation in ACRE, essentially setting the payment limitations at the effective caps, less the reductions in direct payments and marketing loan gains.


  • The amendment improves the “measurable standard” by which USDA determines who should and should not receive farm payments.  It requires that management be personally provided on a regular, substantial, and continuous basis through direct supervision and direction of farming activities and labor and on-site services.


  • It would provide savings of approximately $1.5 billion.


While we support commodity programs that provide a needed safety-net for farmers, the programs should not help big farmers get even bigger.  There’s no problem with a farmer growing his operation, but the taxpayer should not have to subsidize it.  Under current law, nearly 70 percent of commodity farm payments go to the largest 10 percent of farmers.  There comes a point where some farms reach levels that allow them to weather the tough times on their own. Smaller farms do not have the same luxury.  In addition, setting a measurable standard for management of a farming operation will help prevent abuse of farm programs that is present under current law.


These proposed changes to payment limitations will help us target farm payments to those who really need them, the small- and medium-sized farmers who need a safety-net to help them get through rough patches as they produce this nation’s food.


We understand there may be proposals submitted to the Joint Select Committee that would fundamentally change the commodity farm programs.  If one of these proposals is adopted by the Joint Select Committee, the language of our bill also would need to be revised to set a meaningful payment limitation for commodity programs.  Whatever the result, our main point is that setting a meaningful payment limitation and closing current loopholes in the law will provide savings and add integrity to the farm programs.  No matter what decision the Joint Select Committee makes regarding commodity programs, we urge you to ensure payment limitations and closing of loopholes plays a meaningful part.


We request the Joint Select Committee consider the policy reforms set out above, and if you have any questions, please contact us.






Charles E. Grassley                       Tim Johnson

United States Senator

United States Senator

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