In an effort to help beginning farmers and food producers in Rhode Island grow their business and achieve success, U.S. Senator Jack Reed announced Friday a new $737,929 federal grant for the Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).
The funding will support RIFPC’s Advancing Equity in Capital Access for Beginning Farmers project which will lead state and regional partners to provide customized education, mentoring, and networking services to more than 100 Rhode Island farmers. This support will build farmers’ financial literacy and allow them to access the capital they need to succeed.
Partnering organizations on this project include the African Alliance of RI, the Carrot Project, the RI Association of Conservation Districts, Farm Credit East, Young Farmer Network, and the Sankofa Program of West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation.
“New farmers don’t grow on trees. We have to invest in ensuring the next generation of Rhode Island farmers and beginning food producers can succeed and thrive here in the Ocean State. The Rhode Island Food Policy Council does a fantastic job of helping beginners break into the agricultural business and offers them tools and resources to build profitable businesses. This federal funding will help expand their reach and help diversify Rhode Island’s agricultural sector and landscape,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “This federal funding will help beginning farmers in Rhode Island gain new skills, access capital, and gain hands-on skill building, connections, and experience.”
Rhode Island’s BFRDP grant is one of 45 nationwide being awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the program and awarded a total of $27.9 million in BFRDP grants nationwide.
Co-project directors Nessa Richman and Josh Daly of RIFPC stated: “Local farms are critical to our state’s food security and economy, now and in the future. We need our beginning farmers to grow and thrive. This critical investment will go a long way to building a more just and self-reliant local food system. We and our partners are excited to start doing this innovative and important work together.”
The Rhode Island Food Policy Council is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2011 as a statewide collaboration of diverse, committed, and engaged stakeholders from all sectors of the food system with a goal of increasing community food security while simultaneously growing Rhode Island’s local food system.
“This investment reflects USDA’s commitment to helping new farmers and ranchers realize their dreams,” said USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young. “As the average age of our U.S. producers continues to increase, USDA is accelerating efforts to provide meaningful support to a rising cadre of farmers and ranchers—including military veterans interested in starting new careers after their service—so they can cultivate the skills needed to be productive, profitable and resilient.”
According to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Ag Census data, one-third of the United States’ 3.4 million farmers are over the age of 65.
“Ensuring there will be a new generation of beginning farmers and ranchers – regardless of age or production choice – is essential to the continuation of agricultural production in the United States,” said USDA NIFA Director Dr. Manjit Misra. “Beginning farmers and ranchers have unique educational, training, technical assistance and outreach needs. Access to capital, land and knowledge that assists in ensuring profitability and sustainability are vital to farmers and ranchers in their first 10 years of operation.”
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