The coronavirus pandemic has underscored not just the value of local and regional farm and food businesses to the resilience of our nation’s food system, but how essential the development of business skills are to the success of these operations. Farmers and ranchers are entrepreneurs as much as they are growers of agricultural products.
Dedicated federal funding for business technical assistance could make a sizable impact on the viability of the farm economy and resiliency of the food system. This past year has demonstrated that improved business skills and support are essential to enabling farm businesses to start-up and survive the many disruptions.
Land For Good (LFG) and other members of the Agricultural Viability Alliance (AVA) partnered with American Farmland Trust to reach out to members of Congress about the importance of increasing USDA support for one-on-one business technical assistance. Jim Hafner, LFG’s Executive Director, is a member of the founding AVA Steering Committee. Together we rallied 119 organizations to sign on and request USDA to set aside $300 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan Act to dramatically scale up one-on-one business technical assistance for small and midsized farm and food businesses.
Farmers are coming to us everyday with requests for business technical assistance ranging from finding farmland and understanding land tenure options to crafting leases, planning farm transfers – and so much more,” explained Jim Hafner, LFG’s Executive Director. “It’s critical to increase the quality, depth, availability and connectedness of the full range of technical assistance services for farm businesses – and to diversify who offers these services.”
In addition, 50 Members of Congress from across the nation signed a similar letter spearheaded by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY). The New England delegation was well represented among the Congressional signers. Pivotal members also included Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosie Delauro (D-CT), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). This is an incredible achievement, considering many of these offices were not very familiar with this issue when outreach began.
These letters underscore the high degree of congressional and stakeholder support for dedicated business technical assistance funding,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director for AFT. “We would like to particularly thank Senator Leahy and Representative Delgado for their leadership. They have been instrumental in building awareness and support in Congress for this much-needed assistance.”
Our New England delegation was particularly supportive, with at least one Senator from each New England state signing on along with key regional lawmakers who have Agricultural and Appropriations committee roles. Please thank your congressional offices for their support!