Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Landmark Legislation to Address Land Access Introduced in House

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), Zach Nunn (R-IA), and Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act, a bill to remove barriers faced by young, beginning, and historically underserved farmers and ranchers. If enacted, the bipartisan legislation would authorize and expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access Program and represent an historic step toward addressing the interrelated challenges that these farmers face.

“As the average age of farmers continues to rise, our nation faces an unprecedented generational transfer of farmland. Meanwhile, beginning and historically marginalized farmers are struggling to access farmland and the resources they need to grow viable farm businesses,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director for American Farmland Trust. “Today’s introduction of the bipartisan Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act reflects a growing understanding that these challenges are interrelated, and that addressing them requires urgent investment and creative, community-led solutions.”

With agricultural land at record prices—fueled in part from steep competition from developers, investors, and established farmers—many young and Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers and ranchers cite access to farmland, whether purchased or rented, as their top challenge. At the same time, our nation’s agricultural landowners are aging. For every farmer and rancher under age 35, there are four who are 65 years or older. Compounding these land access challenges, many farms and ranches, especially those that are small and mid-sized, struggle with profitability and farm viability. Farmers must continually fine-tune their business models to develop resilient operations that are viable in the long-run and can withstand the cyclical ups and downs that are inherent to farming.

In 2022, USDA’s Farm Service Agency launched the Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access (LCM) Program to provide flexible support for a wide range of eligible activities through service providers already immersed in the farming communities they serve. The program is the first of its kind to directly address land access and related challenges facing young, beginning, and BIPOC producers, with services including succession planning, down payment support, business and financial planning, and heirs’ property title resolution.

The Increasing Land Access, Security and Opportunities Act expands on this program, making it permanent and authorizing funding at $100 million per year for the next five years.

“We applaud Representatives Budzinski, Nunn, and Courtney for introducing this bill,” Fink said, “and for working to ensure that the next Farm Bill supports equitable opportunities for historically underserved producers to not just farm, but to thrive. By helping farmers get on the land, stay on the land, and build strong, viable businesses, this bill would set the next generation up for success.”

The Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act would permanently authorize the LCM Program and broaden its authorities, including:

  • Making funding available to entities that focus on strengthening land, capital and market access for historically underserved farmers.
  • Providing funds for services that help farmers and ranchers acquire land, cover closing costs and down payments, secure clear titles, make site improvements and access training and business technical assistance.
  • Prioritizing projects that give direct financial assistance to farmers, involve collaborative partnerships and transition farmland from existing producers to the next generation.
  • Establishing a committee of stakeholders to develop a process for evaluating applications and distributing funds effectively.

A one-pager on the legislation can be found here.

Full text of the bill can be found here.

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