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Deputy ag secretary announces commitments to help new farmers and ranchers, visits UKAg

 

USDA, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden on Oct. 29 announced a commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prioritize $5.6 billion over the next two years within USDA programs and services that serve new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Deputy Secretary Harden also announced a new, tailored web tool designed to connect burgeoning farm entrepreneurs with programs and resources available to help them get started.

"Today's announcement is symbolic of the evolution of USDA's efforts to better serve the next generation of farmers and ranchers. What began seven years ago with the recognition that the rapid aging of the American farmer was an emerging challenge, has transformed into a robust, transparent, tech-based strategy to recruit the farmers of the future," said Harden. "No matter where you're from, no matter what you look like, no matter your background, we want USDA to be the first stop for anyone who is looking to be a part of the story and legacy of American agriculture."

The new web tool is available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers. The site was designed based on feedback from new and beginning farmers and ranchers around the country who cited unfamiliarity with programs and resources as a challenge to starting and expanding their operations. The site features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner needs to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner. By answering a series of questions about their operation, farmers can use the site's Discovery Tool to build a personalized set of recommendations of USDA programs and services that may meet their needs.

Using the new web tool and other outreach activities, and operating within its existing resources, USDA has set a new goal of increasing beginning farmer and rancher participation by an additional 6.6 percent across key USDA programs, which were established or strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, for a total investment value of approximately $5.6 billion. Programs were targeted for expanded outreach and commitment based on their impact on expanding opportunity for new and beginning farmers and ranchers, including starting or expanding an operation, developing new markets, supporting more effective farming and conservation practices, and having access to relevant training and education opportunities. USDA will provide quarterly updates on its progress towards meeting its goal. A full explanation of the investment targets, benchmarks and outcomes is available here.

Deputy Secretary Harden made the announcements during remarks to more than 60,000 attendees at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. That same day, Harden visited the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, where she told students they are the next generation of agricultural decision-makers and problem solvers.

 

“I encourage you to learn from history, so you don’t forget the path,” said Harden, to students gathered in the Cameron Williams lecture hall in the Plant Sciences building on the UK campus. “We need more people to be part of the future [of agriculture].”

One of Harden’s passions is working to eliminate food waste.

“We throw away a vast one-third of what we produce each year,” she said. “We buy more than we can eat. I’m guilty of it myself, but I’m trying to change that. Even though I live in a high-rise building, I still compost my food waste.”

She shared a new app that USDA developed called FoodKeeper. Users will be able to find storage timelines, cooking tips and learn how storage methods affect the storage life of foods. They will also be able personalize the app according to their purchases and ask questions of USDA representatives.

After her brief address, Harden took questions from students in the audience. Students posed a variety of topics for discussion including food safety, immigration and migrant workers, animal health and urban farming. Harden also encouraged students who have an interest in agriculture, but don’t have a rural or farm background, to pursue their passion.

During her Oct 29 visit to the UK campus, Harden toured The 90, an 80,000 square-foot academic-support and dining facility. There she visited with administrators of The Food Connection at UK, which serves farmers, food producers, students and consumers through creative strategies for a vibrant, healthy and sustainable food economy.