Growing up on a farm, Krysta Harden, the United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary, knows how difficult and rewarding a life in agriculture can be.
On Monday, Harden announced two efforts to help beginning farmers get their business off the ground — or rather, keep it in the ground — at the first meeting of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers advisory committee at UC Davis.
First, implementation of measures out of the 2014 Farm Bill will increase financial assistance for new farmers in times of emergency, like the current drought:
* Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Enrollment fees will be waived, which helps farmers grow crops that don’t have crop insurance options.
* Beginning farmers will receive larger payments for livestock losses under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program.
* Farmers will continue receiving steady levels of payments if they graze on Conservation Reserve Program land outside of nesting seasons — before, they could face reductions of up to 25 percent.
Second, Harden announced the newly designed www.usda.gov/newfarmers.
Searching for information for starting a career in agriculture, Harden was dismayed she couldn’t find the requested information.
“I’m a USDA employee, and I got lost,” she said.
The new website connects new farmers to resources like grant programs, leadership opportunities, local communities and financial planning. It highlights initiatives for veterans as well as younger people who grew up on farms.
While Harden cautioned that no resource could turn a person into a farmer overnight, she emphasized these resources will allow easy access to tools that make farming a viable future.
“Your land is your factory,” Harden said. “It’s never just dirt.”