Heitkamp Meets with Students in Kindred, Discusses Her Bill to Support Young & Beginning Farmers to Keep Ag Communities Strong

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today visited Kindred High School to meet with students studying agriculture, and discuss her new bipartisan legislation to support young and beginning farmers and help farm communities like Kindred remain strong for generations to come.


Heitkamp also visited Kindred Elementary School to talk to third and fifth grade students about leadership and public service, and congratulated them on being recognized as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School because of their exemplary performance preparing students for success.


Meeting with high school students studying agriculture, Heitkamp joined North Dakota Agriculture Education Supervisor and State FFA Advisor Aaron Anderson to discuss the importance of supporting programs like the FFA and her new bipartisan legislation to ensure a younger generation of agriculture workers have the education and support they need to begin a career in farming and ranching.


“Agriculture is the lifeblood of our rural communities, and it was inspiring to meet students in Kindred who are passionate about continuing our strong tradition of family farming,” Heitkamp said. “The average age of a farmer in North Dakota is pushing 60 years old – we must do more to help the next generation gain the skills and support they need to get started and succeed. To keep our farm communities strong, I introduced a bipartisan bill to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers and make sure they get the education they need for a lifetime of success. As Congress works on the next Farm Bill, I’m fighting to include my legislation as part of it to helps students in Kindred and across the state launch successful careers in agriculture that support rural communities across our state.”


The average age of a farmer is 57 years old in North Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Across the country, the share of farmers age 65 and older has increased from 14 percent in 1945, to more than 31 percent in 2012. The percentage of new farmers has declined since 1982, and without efforts to cultivate the next generation of farmers, rural economies could suffer.


Heitkamp recently introduced the Next Generation in Agriculture Act with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). It would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more resources to help young and beginning farmers become established in the field of agriculture. Specifically, the bill would:


·         Extend the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development (BFRD) program beyond 2018, and increase the USDA’s support for the program to $30 million in fiscal years 2019-2020, $40 million for fiscal years 2021-2022, and $50 million for fiscal year 2023 and each fiscal year thereafter.


·         Emphasize areas of the BFRD program that would include farmers and ranchers who are looking to transition their farming operation to a young or beginning farmer.


·         Change the definition in the crop insurance title to define a beginning farmer and rancher as having farmed less than 10 years opposed to 5.


·         Create a permanent National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator and Agricultural Youth Coordinator at the USDA, and direct state USDA offices to designate an employee as the state beginning farmer and rancher coordinator.


·         Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a next generation agriculture technology challenge competition to provide an incentive for the development of innovative technology that removes barriers to entry in the marketplace for beginning farmers and ranchers.


The BFRD program plays a key role in helping the next generation become established in agriculture by providing grants to organizations for education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers. Click here for more information on the program.


Click here for more information about the Next Generation in Agriculture Act


Click here for more statements of support for the bill from farmers, ranchers, and supportive groups in North Dakota and across the country.


Heitkamp, a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, is pushing to incorporate the legislation into the next Farm Bill. Heitkamp helped write and negotiate the 2014 Farm Bill, and has introduced a series of bills aimed at shaping the next Farm Bill, including:


·         A bill to fix the ARC-County Program to help farmers when commodity prices fall to damaging levels.


·         A bill to improve disaster assistance to livestock and honeybee producers by permanently remove the funding cap for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) – a provision that was signed into law in a recent budget agreement –  and the bill would also allow the Secretary of Agriculture to temporarily raise the cost-share assistance provided by the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) from 75 percent to 90 percent in counties that receive an extreme drought designation.


·         A bill to make sure the needs of Indian Country are addressed in the Farm Bill, especially issues pertaining to nutrition and housing.