Published May 3, 2011

Transform Our Food System

By Sarah Carlson

ACTION ALERT: Transform Our Food System

Opportunity to Transform Our Food System – Act Today

America needs a new generation of farmers and ranchers. More than half the country’s farmland is currently owned by farmers at retirement age! With your help in the last Farm Bill we won innovative programs to support the growing number of young people who want to enter into farming.

Two essential programs providing needed assistance to aspiring farmers face potential deep cuts in 2012 – direct farm lending programs and a matched savings program for beginning farmers and ranchers.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Tom Latham sit on the subcommittees responsible for funding agriculture and will be setting priorities very soon.  They both need to hear from you in support of beginning farmers.

* Farm Services Agency direct farm lending programs, especially farm ownership loans, were drastically cut in the recently-enacted 2011 government funding bill.  This is a crucial source of credit for beginning farmers who have difficulty obtaining credit from commercial sources.   Seventy-five percent of direct farm ownership loans and 50 percent of direct farm operating loans are reserved for beginning farmers.   This is a critical source of capital for the purchase of land, livestock and equipment.

* The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (BFRIDA) Program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill but has never been funded, even though USDA has asked Congress to provide funding.  This innovative program would provide business education and a matched savings account to beginning farmers of modest means to contribute into.  BFRIDA has the potential to create  thousands of new farm businesses which translates into new farms, more jobs, and stronger rural communities. Participants in existing IDA programs are 84 percent more likely to become business owners than those who have not participated in IDA programs.

Calling is Easy:

  • Call Senator Harkin’s office at (202) 224-3254 and ask for his aide Richard Bender. If he is unavailable, please leave a brief voice mail message with your name and contact information. You can also leave a message with the receptionist.
  • Also call Congressman Latham’s office at (202) 225-5476 and ask for his aide, Emily Clark. Same directions as above.

The Message is Simple:

  • Thank Senator Harkin and Congressman Latham for their past support. Ask them to support direct farm ownership loans at the program level of $600 million, and direct farm operating loans at program level of $1.05 billion.  Beginning farmers need access to affordable credit for the purchase of land, livestock and equipment and for annual operating expenses. 

  • Also ask them to support the Beginning Farmer Individual Development Account program at the Farm Bill-authorized level of $5 million for fiscal year 2012. Tell them that existing IDA programs have a proven track record of increasing the success of new businesses.


Seventy percent of U.S. agricultural land is expected to change hands in the next 20 years.  These programs – and your phone calls –  are critical to the long-term sustainable success of new farmers.  Thank You!


Click here to tell us how your call went.


Learn More:

Click here to learn more about PFI’s Savings Incentive Program 2010 Recipients


Click here to read about how Shannon and Kelly Douglas used the Californial Land Link’s IDA program to jump start their grazing business.


Click here to learn more about the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Program.


Click here to learn more about the Farm Services Agency direct lending programs.