To the Editor,

The US Department of Agriculture announced more than $18 million in funding available to support training, mentoring, and development of beginning farmers and ranchers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

We helped create and advocate for this program in the 2002 Farm Bill. It was finally funded in the 2008 Farm Bill.

The need was clear then and remains so today. A number of beginning farmers and ranchers donít have direct roots to agriculture. While they yearn for the honest, hard work you find in farming or ranching, they need help learning the ropes.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program awards grants to organizations implementing programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers. Funding includes support for workshops, farmer-to-farmer mentoring, and technical assistance.

Since the program was first funded and put on the ground in 2009, 145 awards have been made. Thatís more than $71 million dedicated to giving the next generation of farmers and ranchers the know-how to succeed.

A focus on projects for veteran beginning farmers and ranchers has been added this time. It joins previous set-asides for socially-disadvantaged, limited-resource, or farmworkers who want a start in agriculture.

Organizations experienced in serving beginning farmers and ranchers must submit their applications by March 13, 2015. If you are a beginning farmer or rancher looking to find training and mentoring opportunities, call us at 402.687.2100 or send an email to Weíll point you in the right direction.

Traci Bruckner,

Center for Rural Affairs

Lyons, Neb.