(NAFB)--A group of bipartisan Representatives and Senators has asked House and Senate farm bill conferees to provide legislation with programs meant to break down the barriers that make it difficult to enter agriculture. The Senate letter urged the conferees to maintain the strongest possible support for beginning farmers and ranchers through targeted programs that provide new and young farmers with education and training, access to credit and access to affordable land with support for conservation programs. Both letters specifically ask for adoption of funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program at no less than the House-passed level of 20-million dollars per year; House-passed provisions that expand credit options for new farmers - including an authorization for USDA to make microloans for beginning and veteran farmers and to launch an intermediary lending pilot modeled after other successful cooperative lending programs such as the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program; Senate-passed funding levels for the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program; and the House-passed provision that increases the amount of funding a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer can receive up front through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Many of the members of Congress who signed these letters demonstrated support for beginning farmers by cosponsoring legislation introduced earlier this year in the House and Senate - the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. A similar letter was sent to Congressional leaders by more than 130 organizations from across the country earlier this month.