In recent remarks at the National Farmers Union National Con-vention, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new and expanded efforts to connect small- and mid-sized farmers and ranchers with USDA resources that can help them build stronger businesses, ex-pand to reach new and larger markets, and grow their operations.
“The recent Census of Agriculture shows that there is tremendous growth potential for small and mid-sized producers in the American agricultural landscape,” says Vilsack.
“USDA is taking a hard look at our existing resources to ensure that they work for producers of all sizes. We’ve adjusted policies, strengthened programs and intensified outreach to meet the needs of small and mid-sized producers.”
Efforts now include improved access to USDA’s resources, revised risk management tools that better fit the needs of smaller producers, additional support for hoop houses, and expanded collection of valuable market news information. USDA is also introducing a series of education tools focusing on opportunities for farmers engaged in local and regional food systems. In addition, USDA field staff will be boosting their numerous outreach efforts to small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers.
More information about tools and resources available to small and mid-sized farmers will be rolled out in the coming months, including information about access to capital, risk management, food safety, and locating market opportunities on USDA’s Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage.
The new efforts announced by the Secretary include:
- Changes to the Farm Storage and Facility Loan (FSFL) Program to help small and mid-sized fruit and vegetable producers access the program for cold storage and related equipment like wash and pack stations.
- Funding for producers under the popular microloan program.
- Funding for hoop houses to extend the growing season.
- Developing tools to help small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers make sound financial decisions as they plan for their future.
- Expanded price, volume, supply and demand information are now available through Market News, which is collecting price data on grass-fed beef to arm producers with real pricing information from the sector.
- USDA’s Farm to School Program has put seven new Farm to School Coordinators on the ground to help build direct relationships between small and mid-sized producers.
USDA contributed information for this article.