The USDA has awarded a $103,700 grant to Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana, New Orleans, to provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The grant project will address priority training needs of Latino farmers, including production and management strategies, business management and decision support strategies and marketing strategies.

The Louisiana grant is one 36 grants totaling $18 million to organizations that will help beginning farmers and ranchers run successful and sustainable farms.

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said it’s important to attract new agricultural producers into the profession. “As the average age of America's farmers and ranchers increases, and with traditional rural populations in decline, it’s critical that we train the next generation of American producers now.”

Kathleen Merrigan, USDA deputy secretary, agreed. “Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges, and these grants will provide needed training to help these producers become profitable and sustainable. American agriculture supports one in twelve jobs in America, a critical contribution to the strength and prosperity of the country.”

Strain said new farmers are necessary for the United States to maintain its preeminent position as an international agricultural leader.

“The productivity of the American farmer has given our residents access to an inexpensive, but nutritious food supply,” Strain said. “Americans have more discretionary income spending power because food doesn’t cost as much as it does in other countries, but as our farmers age, and more young people look outside of farming for their careers, we have to do everything we can to encourage new farmers and ranchers.”

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Under BFRDP, which was established through the 2008 farm bill, NIFA makes grants to organizations that implement education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer.

At least 25 percent of the program’s funding supports the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in farming and ranching.

In addition to Louisiana, projects were awarded in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi (to develop and disseminate training materials and decision-making tools to high school and college students who plan to enter farming and ranching), Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

A full list of awardees can be found online here.  

BFRDP provided $18 million in funding this year, the third year of the program. Another $18 million will be made available in fiscal year 2012.

For more information on the BFRDP program, see here.