The United States farming industry is filled with opportunities for young people who are interested in agriculture. The United States Department of Agriculture offers grants to people who are interested in starting a farm or ranch but have little experience. With these funds, beginning farmers can make the large initial investments that might otherwise keep them out of farming.
The aim of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is to bring new people into America's agricultural industry. In 2007, the average age of an American farmer was 57. This means that the industry is reaching a transition point. Older farmers will retire, and there must be a new generation to take their place. The USDA grants provide new farmers with the opportunity to start gaining experience so that the upcoming transition can be as smooth as possible.
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Grants are available to farms whose operators have less than 10 years of experience in agriculture. Applicants must be a group of public or private entities including tribal entities, community groups and universities. Groups with experience in starting new farms may propose a project and use the funds to pay inexperienced operators to run the project. According to the USDA, about 21 percent of family farms were eligible to apply for these grants in 2007.
The organization that wishes to apply for the grant must first register with Grants.gov. Each application must include a cover letter in the format specified by the USDA. Applicants should also include a completed project summary template, which outlines the goals and process of the project, and a project narrative, which explains the project in more detail. The program participants must be identified in the application, and their eligibility to apply to the grant must be verified.
The USDA does not publish limitations on individual award amounts. In 2010, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program had a total of $19 million in funds to distribute to beginning farmers and ranchers. Each recipient must contribute funds to the project in the amount of at least 25 percent of the award from the USDA. In their budget proposals, applicants should demonstrate that they have secured the amount of matching funds that would be required if the USDA were to grant the entire proposal.