According to USDA statistics, half of all current farmers in the U.S. are likely to retire in the next decade. Enlisting and supporting new farmers is essential to the future of family farms, the farm economy, and healthy rural communities. Who will these new farmers be? From new farmer focus groups and requests for information, we know that they come from all backgrounds, are in all stages of development, and bring a wide range of talents and resources to their new enterprises. Resources in the links below will help you identify programs, services, and resources for new and beginning farmers.


Useful Links and USDA Programs

  • Beginning Farmers
    Resources on farm financing, finding land, business planning, agricultural production and marketing and much more.
  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loans
    Farm Service Agency
    United States Department of Agriculture
  • Center for Rural Affairs
  • Beginning Farmer Projects
    Cornell Small Farms Program
    Cornell CALS
    Tutorials and worksheets to help guide you to write a business plan; videos of farmers giving advice and up close production techniques; and many other useful resources!
  • USDA Programs
    United States Department of Agriculture

    For many years USDA has developed and implemented programs targeted to the next generation of agriculture producers. For example, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 apportioned $75 million from 2009 to 2012 for education, training, and outreach programs to enhance the efficiency and viability of beginning farmers and ranchers. The recently passed Agriculture Act of 2014 provides $20 million annually for 2014 through 2018 to support similar activities. The information that follows is a partial list of the USDA agencies, and the programs they offer, that are of special interest to beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA)
    United States Department of Agriculture

    FSA Loan Programs
    FSA directs a portion of its loan portfolio to beginning farmers and ranchers who otherwise may fail to quality for credit from traditional sources. FSA defines beginning farmers and ranchers as those having 10 years or less of production agriculture experience. For these individuals, FSA offers regular loans and loan guarantees through their farm loan program. FSA also offers flexibility in application, eligibility, and security requirements to both new and small producers. FSA provides operating and ownership loans with terms and rates designed to mitigate some of the obstacles facing producers that lack a full credit history. For example, FSA offers Microloans containing special terms and conditions to eligible producers who use the credit to pay for various operating, production, and marketing expenses. Unlike commercial loans, FSA loans are temporary and designed to help producers ultimately obtain credit from commercial sources. Loan programs from FSA available to beginning farmers and ranchers include the following: Guaranteed loans are provided by commercial lenders but are guaranteed by FSA. These guarantees are provided on ownership, operating, and conservation loans. Direct loans are directly provided and managed by FSA. Ownership, operating, conservation, and emergency loans are provided through the Direct Loan Program. Land contract guarantees are available to landowners who wish to sell real estate through a land contract to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.

    More information on FSA loan packages for beginning farmers and ranchers is available on the FSA website.
    • Guaranteed Loan Program
    • Direct Loan Program Land
    • Contract Guarantee Program
  • Conservation Reserve Program and Transition Incentives Program
    Since its inception in 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has offered annual payments to landowners or renters in exchange for the removal of highly erodible acres from production. Special treatment of CRP land transferring from retired or retiring land owners is available by the Transition Incentives Program (TIP). For land expiring from CRP contracts, TIP provides two additional annual rental payments to retiring landowners on the condition that they sell or rent this land to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher. FSA defines socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as those individuals who are members of groups that have historically been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice. The new owner or renter must return the land to production using sustainable methods.

    More information on the TIP program is available on the FSA website.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
    United States Department of Agriculture

    NRCS offers various tools that assist farmers and ranchers with implementing conservation practices that help conserve the nation’s air, water, soil, and other natural resources. Programs such as Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) contain provisions specifically addressing the needs of new and beginning producers. In general, EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to support conservation practices on eligible land. Socially disadvantaged, beginning producers, and veterans may qualify for increased payment rates and advanced payments to purchase eligible supplies and materials to implement conservation practices consistent with their EQIP contracts. Specifically, in regard to advance payments, EQIP now provides an increase in the limit from 30 to 50 percent of total costs for eligible participants.

    More information on EQIP and other NRCS programs are available on the NRCS website.
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
    National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

    NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) was first authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill and then reauthorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014. USDA estimates that aid associated with BFRDP will be approximately $19.2 billion dollars in the fiscal year 2014, and this funding will be directed to organizations and activities that support beginning farmers and ranchers. Organizations receiving funding priority include nongovernmental, community-based, and educational organizations having employees with expertise in training, assisting, and educating new agricultural producers. A portion of program funds will be directed to limited resource and socially disadvantaged beginning producers, farmworkers with goals of becoming independent producers, and veterans interested in farming or ranching.

    USDA has identified three types of eligible projects for BFRDP:

    1) Standard Projects which address education, training, outreach, and assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers;

    2) Educational Enhancement Projects that will help coordinate and evaluate Standard Projects;

    3) and Curriculum and Training Clearinghouses that will disseminate curricula and training materials to program participants and the organizations that serve them.

    USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will award grants through a competitive process. The NIFA’s 2014 fiscal year Request for Application is available later this spring. These funds are available to organizations offering programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. Producers are only indirect beneficiaries of this program – they do not receive funds directly.

    More information on NIFA’s BFRDP is available on the NIFA website.