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Young MN Farmer Shares Skills with Ag Newcomers

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012   

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As the families who run Minnesota's farms continue to age, Congress is being urged to support the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act as part of the 2012 Farm Bill.

A young farmer from southeast Minnesota is in Washington this week, talking to lawmakers about the importance of programs that support the next generation in the field of agriculture.

Aimee Finley, who runs a dairy farm, says a key piece of the proposed Act is the training that can help people navigate the challenges of getting started.

"The training and assistance for beginning farmers is part of that, but it's also looking at loan options and how to obtain start-up credit, as well as operating credit, and looking at conservation assistance as well, with these beginning farmers."

She says some of the biggest obstacles for beginning farmers and ranchers are the initial costs of equipment and acreage.

"One of the biggest challenges, I think, is land access, and how to do it and where is it appropriate; and then, length of leases, if you're not buying."

Finley operates a small grass-based dairy near St. Charles, and says the training she received in the Farm Beginnings program from the Land Stewardship Project was invaluable. In fact, she's now a class facilitator and instructor for the program.

"The age of farmers is growing and so, the need for new, beginning farmers is just as important. And we might have to change some of the faces of who those people are and what exactly they're doing, but it's critical."

Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz is lead author of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Co-sponsors include Representatives Betty McCollum and Collin Peterson, and Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. The current Farm Bill expires September 30.

Nearly one in five jobs in Minnesota is linked to agriculture.

More information is at www.landstewardshipproject.org.




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