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Bill would up funding for beginning farmers

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on April 26 introduced a bill that would reauthorize and double funding for a beginning farmer programs over the life of the next farm bill.

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Erin Brown / Grand Vale Creative

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on April 26 introduced a bill that would reauthorize and double funding for a beginning farmer programs over the life of the next farm bill.

Heitkamp and Collins, in a joint news release, said they hope to get the Next Generation Act into the next farm bill. Congress is working to replace the existing multi-year farm law that is set to expire at the end of September. The overall cost score for the bill is about $390 million over 10 years.

The two senators said the average age of a farmer is 57 in both North Dakota and Maine and that 31 percent of the nation's farmers in 2012 were age 65 or older. They said the bill is designed to support the "next generation of farmers."

Among other things, the legislation would do the following:

• Extend the existing Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development beyond the current farm bill and would increase the U.S. Department of Agriculture's support for the program from the current $20 million to $30 million in fiscal years 2019-2020, $40 million for fiscal years 2021-2022, and $50 million for fiscal year 2023 and each fiscal year thereafter.

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• Emphasize areas of the BFRD program that would include farmers and ranchers who are looking to transition their farming operation to a young or beginning farmer.

• Change the definition in the crop insurance title to define a beginning farmer and rancher as having farmed fewer than 10 years instead of the current five.

• Create a permanent National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator and Agricultural Youth Coordinator at the USDA, and direct state USDA offices to designate an employee as the state beginning farmer and rancher coordinate.

• Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a next generation agriculture technology challenge competition to provide an incentive for the development of innovative technology that removes barriers to entry in the marketplace for beginning farmers and ranchers.

For more information on the BFRD, click here .

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMP
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