Udall Secures Measures to Grow the Next Generation of New Mexico Farmers & Ranchers in Farm Bill
Farmers of Tomorrow Act will break down financial barriers that prevent new farmers and ranchers from starting out in agriculture
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) announced the passage of a measure that he has championed that will help shore up the future of farming and ranching in New Mexico and across the country by attracting younger generations to pursue careers in agriculture. Udall’s bipartisan Farmers of Tomorrow Act, S. 2685, which was included in the 2018 Farm Bill that passed the Senate by a vote of 87-13 last week, will aim to strengthen the next generation of farmers and ranchers by expanding eligibility to a critical loan program for new farmers to buy land and easements or improve farm facilities.
“New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers work tirelessly to feed and fuel the nation while growing our state’s economy. But the average age of farmers and ranchers in New Mexico is over 60, and we need smart investments to ensure our agriculture sector remains strong in the future,” Udall said. “The Farmers of Tomorrow Act will help cultivate the next generation of farmers by lifting barriers to entry and increasing access to the capital necessary to pursue agriculture. I fought hard to include these measures in the Farm Bill because I know how crucial it is to encourage and incentivize hopeful new farmers and ranchers to revitalize and invest in our rural communities in New Mexico and across the country. By addressing the obstacles that make starting a career in farming seem out of reach, we can open doors for the next generation of farmers and ranchers to continue strengthening New Mexico agriculture and driving our economy forward.”
In the United States, the number of new farmers has continued to decline rapidly as the average age of farmers continues to rise. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives farm ownership loan preference to applicants with a degree in agriculture or a related field and requires several years of agricultural tax returns. However, many beginning farmers and ranchers may choose to enter agriculture after pursuing a different educational path, completing military service, or leaving another industry, and may not have the required tax return information to secure a direct farm ownership loan.
Udall’s bill, which he and U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced in April of this year, will streamline “farm experience” eligibility requirements for USDA direct farm ownership. This will level the playing field for new farmers and ranchers with degrees in disciplines other than agriculture and without farm income based tax returns, allowing them greater access to capital to purchase or expand a farm or ranch. The provisions were included in the 2018 Farm Bill as part of the Farm Credit title. This title also increased the size of ownership loans from $300,000 to $600,000, modernizing the program to bring it more in line with the real costs of farm and ranch purchases.
In addition to improvements in loan programs for beginning farmers and ranchers, the Farm Bill creates a new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program, which combines support for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers with outreach assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers to create $435 million in permanent grant and technical assistance funding – tripling the current investment. This new program incorporated changes from S. 2839, the Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act, which Udall cosponsored.