I’m excited because this Forum begins a long over-due national discussion on new and beginning farmer policy issues, with the goal of identifying great ideas that can be replicated to get new farmers on the land throughout the country. A wide range of stakeholders, including farmers, USDA officials, Senate and House leaders, academics, industry representatives, and many sustainable farming organizations in Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network, will take part in the two-day conference.
The Forum is being organized by Neil Hamilton, the director of the Drake University Agricultural Law Center. Neil’s brilliant proposal for a federally supported New Farmers Corps is one of many ideas that will be discussed.
In addition, the day before the conference, Farm Aid is participating in a “New Farmer Fly-In” spearheaded by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). The fly-in will bring new farmers from eight different states to D.C. for meetings at the USDA and on Capitol Hill. The farmers’ travel costs are being covered thanks to a cooperative effort between Forum organizers, NSAC, Farm Aid, the Center for Rural Affairs, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, Land Stewardship Project, Practical Farmers of Iowa, California Farm Link, Land for Good, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the Quivira Coalition, and the CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food.
With this focus on new farmers, now is a good time to remind everyone that April 6 is the deadline for grant proposals for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Grants are awarded primarily to non-profit and community-based organizations to develop and offer new farmer education, outreach, mentoring and internships programs. See this page for details.
I’ll be reporting from D.C. next week so stay tuned for an insider look at how farmers effect change in Washington!