WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.20.23] – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to help address workforce shortages in farming and boost economic growth and development in rural communities. The bills are set to be included as part of this year’s Farm Bill, a package of legislation passed every five years that is critically important for farmers, rural communities, and the environment.
Specifically, Smith’s legislation will help increase access to capital for under-served farmers, boost training and economic opportunity for beginner farmers, and help make land more affordable for historically disadvantaged farmers.
“The Farm Bill touches the lives of virtually every American and is vital to our state’s economy,” said Sen. Smith. “The bills that I am introducing today will help beginning farmers access land and develop markets for their products, two of the biggest issues I have heard during my Farm Bill listening sessions around the state. I will continue working to get them across the finish line and make this year’s Farm Bill as strong as possible.”
Senator Smith’s bills include:
- Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act: This bill addresses land access, market access, and capital access issues that under-served farmers, including beginning and young farmers, face while trying to start up their farming operations. The bill has bipartisan support in the House and would make funding available to help farmers acquire land, make site improvements, and access training and technical assistance. It would also provide funding for non-profits, local governments and tribal governments that focus on strengthening land, capital and market access for historically underserved farmers.
- Reauthorization of the “Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Grant Program: Reauthorizes funding for beginning farmer training programs and socially disadvantaged farmer outreach programs that Sen. Smith championed. It combines the two initiatives into a program called Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach. The program also ensures non-native English speakers can access the program through language services, which are included in the reauthorization.
“With millions of acres of agricultural land anticipated to change hands over the next decade, now is the moment for Congress to take action and ensure that the 2023 Farm Bill delivers material benefits for historically underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest owners striving to establish and grow their operations,” said Holly Rippon-Butler, Land Policy Director with the National Young Farmers Coalition. “Land access is the top challenge that young farmers across the country face. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Smith in introducing this bill, which invests in locally-led solutions to address this barrier. By supporting secure land access for underserved farmers and ranchers, this bill supports increasing food access, strengthening local supply chains, growing rural economies, and building climate resilience.”
“As the average age of farmers approaches 60 years old, our nation faces an unprecedented generational transfer of farmland. Meanwhile, beginning and historically marginalized farmers are struggling to access farmland and the resources they need to start and grow viable farm businesses,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director for American Farmland Trust. “By introducing these two bills—the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act and the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Grant Program Reauthorization Act—Sen. Smith helps send a clear message that these challenges are interrelated, and that addressing them requires urgent investment and creative, community-led solutions. We applaud her leadership and will work hard to see these changes included in the next Farm Bill.”
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition commends the introduction of the Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act and the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2023,” said Nick Rossi, NSAC Policy Specialist. “Land access is one of the biggest challenges for young and beginning farmers all across the country – from small-scale dairy farmers in New England to specialty crop producers across the South. This bill will invest directly in an array of efforts aimed at improving access to land, capital, and markets for underserved farmers and ranchers. In addition, the Farming Opportunities and Training Outreach Grant Program (FOTO) has proven an invaluable tool in addressing the unique and difficult challenges farmers of color and beginning farmers face in their operations. NSAC thanks Senator Smith for being a champion of underserved and beginning farmers.”