February 02, 2015

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce More Than $1.4 Million In Federal Funds To Two Ithaca Institutions To Train Returning Vets To Be Farmers & Ranchers

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Funds Will Allow Cornell University & Center for Transformative Action in Ithaca to Increase Training, Resources for Returning Veterans Seeking to Start Farm-Related Careers & Beginning Farmers, Ranchers in Finger Lakes Region

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide $1,420,227 in federal funds to help two New York State organizations train beginning farmers and ranchers, including returning veterans looking to start farm-related careers. These federal funds will be allocated through the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Cornell University in Ithaca will receive $712,500 in federal funds to provide advanced training and support to 500 advanced beginning farmers and 100 military veterans who are seeking to start careers in farming. The Center for Transformative Action in Ithaca will receive $707,727 in federal funds to provide comprehensive training and mentoring to beginning farmers and ranchers in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Schumer and Gillibrand previously pushed to ensure the USDA had the funding necessary to deliver these kinds of training programs to thousands of Upstate New York veterans and farmers.

“Beginning farmers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to breaking into the farming sector, and our returning veterans in particular frequently encounter obstacles when considering a career in farming because agriculture training is not directly funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. With two great Ithaca organizations now ready to provide the training in agriculture that veterans need to break into the industry, it will only be a benefit to local veterans and farmers,” said Senator Schumer. “Our new farmers and those who bravely served our country need support from all levels of government, and this funding will allow them to pursue new opportunities, bring innovative ideas to the industry, and help us grow the Southern Tier economy.”

“This is an important investment for our veterans and local farmers in the Ithaca area,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Last year, I fought to make sure critical programs that support beginning farmers and our veterans were included in the Farm Bill. These programs will help veterans, farmers, and ranchers gain the skills and expertise they need to succeed in agriculture. Important investments like this one will help our farmers start out strong so they can build successful and sustainable farming operations that grow the rural economy. I will continue to fight to ensure the next generation of farmers get the support they need.”

In October 2013, Senator Gillibrand wrote to Farm Bill Conferees to support the inclusion of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and several measures to improve beginning farmers’ access to credit and microloan programs. In April 2014, Senator Gillibrand led the letter to appropriators to ensure vital funding was available to support veterans transitioning to careers in agriculture and other beginning farmers and ranchers programs in conservation, finance, and outreach. In July 2014, Schumer wrote a letter to the USDA and pushed to secure federal funds for Cornell University’s Northeast Beginning Farmer Project (NBFP), which will now have the funding to provide educational opportunities and support networks for military veterans looking to enter the farming profession. Cornell applied for these federal funds through the USDA’s BFRDP program to make this initiative a reality. With this funding, Cornell University will now help bring more veterans into the fold of New York State’s agricultural sector. Cornell aims to enhance the resources and training available to military veterans interested in farming by teaming with established veterans groups to create programs that better link veterans to agricultural opportunities and provide the necessary training. In 2009, Cornell successfully instituted the NBFP, a learning network that delivers mentoring, training and program development resources for beginning farmers in the Northeast. More than 80 beginning farmer service organizations participate in their professional development network, improving their own skills and accessing new resources to serve beginning farmers.  Schumer explained that, over the last two years, the NBFP has begun receiving an increasing number of requests each month from veterans seeking assistance.

The BFRDP program, first established by the 2008 Farm Bill, aims to support those who have farmed or ranched less than 10 years with workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance throughout the United States. NIFA awards grants to organizations that implement programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers. Today’s announcement was funded by the 2014 Farm Bill, which continued authorization of this program.

Copies of the Senators’ letters are available upon request.