PORTLAND, Ore., July 13, 2020 ─The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is standing up a new team that will lead a department-wide effort focused on serving beginning farmers and ranchers.
“More than a quarter of producers are beginning farmers,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky. “We need to support the next generation of agricultural producers who we will soon rely upon to grow our nation’s food and fiber.”
To institutionalize support for beginning farmers and ranchers and to build upon prior agency work, the 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to create a national coordinator position in the agency and state-level coordinators for four of its agencies – Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Rural Development (RD).
Kathy Ferge was selected as the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher state coordinator in Oregon. Over the past 35 years, Ferge has served Oregon’s agricultural community in a variety of capacities. The last 10 years, she has assisted tribes and other non-traditional agricultural producers as state Tribal Liaison and Outreach Coordinator for NRCS. Additionally, she and her husband run a small farm near Echo, OR.
Ferge’s team also includes Donna Sprenkle, farm loan manager with FSA in Tangent; Cara McNab, regional deputy director with RMA in Spokane; and Erika Moellmer, business and cooperative programs specialist with Rural Development in Portland. This is a collateral duty for all team members.
Each state coordinator will receive training and develop tailored beginning farmer outreach plans for their state. Coordinators will help field employees better reach and serve beginning farmers and ranchers and will also be available to assist beginning farmers who need help navigating the variety of resources USDA has to offer.
More on Beginning Farmers
Twenty seven percent of farmers were categorized as new and beginning producers, with 10 years or less of experience in agriculture, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
USDA offers a variety of farm loan, risk management, disaster assistance, and conservation programs to support farmers, including beginning farmers and ranchers. Additionally, a number of these programs have provisions specifically for beginning farmers, including targeted funding for loans and conservation programs as well as waivers and exemptions.
Learn more about USDA’s resources for beginning farmers as well as more information on the national and state-level coordinators at newfarmers.usda.gov and farmers.gov. For more information on available programs in your area, contact your local USDA service center.