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.
Twenty-seven percent of agricultural producers were categorized as new and beginning, with 10 years or less of experience in agriculture, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. USDA offers a variety of farm financing, risk management, disaster assistance, and conservation programs to support agricultural producers, including beginning farmers and ranchers. Additionally, a number of these programs have provisions specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers, including targeted funding for loan, grant, and conservation programs, as well as waivers and exemptions.
To institutionalize support for beginning farmers and ranchers and to build upon prior department work, the 2018 Farm Bill instructed USDA to create a national coordinator and state-level coordinator positions for four of its agencies: the 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 and Rancher State Coordinator in Oregon. Over the past 35 years, Ferge has served Oregon's agricultural community in a variety of capacities. For the past 10 years, she has assisted tribes and other non-traditional agricultural producers as the state-level Tribal Liaison and Outreach Coordinator for NRCS. Additionally, she and her husband run a small farm near Echo, OR.
Ferge's team includes:
- Donna Sprenkle, Farm Loan Manager with FSA in Tangent, OR;
- Cara McNab, Regional Deputy Director with RMA in Spokane, WA; and
- Erika Moellmer, Business and Cooperative Programs Specialist with RD in Portland, OR.
These new coordinators will help USDA employees better reach and serve beginning farmers and ranchers and will also be available to assist members of the public who need help navigating the variety of resources USDA has to offer.
Learn more about USDA's resources for beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as the new 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.