MFU praises USDA investment in beginning farmers

St. PAUL – Supportingbeginning farmersis a priority for Minnesota Farmers Union and those efforts got a boost from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) last week.

NIFA announced an investment of more than $50 million to teach and train beginning farmers and ranchers. The money went to 140 organizations and institutions, including four newly funded grants in Minnesota.

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) and Renewing the Countryside were among the organizations receiving funding.

According to their grant application, Renewing the Countryside and partner organizations will use the funding to expand the Farmland Access Hub to increase access to land for beginning farmers and ranchers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. HAFA plans to work with partner organizations to offer workshops for new and beginning Hmong farmers and to develop a new agricultural training program aimed at Hmong youth.

“According to USDA, the average Minnesota farmer is a 58 years old,” said Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Gary Wertish. “We in agriculture need to encourage younger people to consider agriculture as a career. That’s why we sponsor awards for young people involved in 4-H and FFA. It’s important to nurture enthusiasm for growing food, fiber and fuel among diverse groups of people who may not consider agriculture a viable career path. Programs like those offered by Renewing the Countryside and HAFA reach underserved groups and will increase the vibrancy of agriculture and rural communities.”