Press Release

Sen. Welch, Rep. Lee Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Help Young and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Cut Through Red Tape and Access USDA Loans

May 1, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, and U.S. Representative Summer Lee (D-Pa.-12) led U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in introducing the Future Farmers and Ranchers of Tomorrow Act, legislation to increase access to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs for young and new farmers. The bill would revise USDA’s “qualified beginning farmer or rancher” definition to allow non-related beginning farmers and ranchers in joint entities to be eligible for FSA loans.  

“Farming is a cherished tradition engrained in our state’s culture. Many beginning farmers in Vermont and across the country are eager to continue the tradition of starting a small, Vermont-sized farm, but securing USDA assistance can be difficult. The Future Farmers and Ranchers of Tomorrow Act will reduce barriers to USDA loans and help more aspiring farmers start to grow the farm they’ve always dreamed of,” said Senator Welch

“As we work to strengthen our agricultural sector and support the next generation of farmers, it’s essential that we make it easier for new entrants to gain access to the tools and resources they need. The Future Farmers and Ranchers of Tomorrow Act is a crucial step towards dismantling barriers and ensuring that ALL aspiring farmers and ranchers, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to thrive. This legislation will help address the long-standing impacts of anti-Black racism in the farming industry, which has historically denied Black farmers equal access to land, loans, and opportunities. We’re not just helping individual farmers—we’re ensuring our communities can continue to grow their own food and prosper for generations to come,” said Representative Lee

“I’ve heard from Minnesota farmers struggling to gain access to vital government assistance programs, and every time I meet with young farmers, we talk about the difficulties they face in starting their businesses,” said Senator Smith. “With food shortages, supply chain snags and a tight labor market around the world, it’s critical we support and grow our farming sector here at home. This bill will cut unnecessary red tape for farmers applying for FSA loans and will increase opportunities for hundreds of new farmers across Minnesota and the country.” 

“Access to credit is vital for beginning and small-scale farmers and ranchers across the United States. While it is important that FSA’s beginning farmer and rancher loan-making program stay true to its mission, the blood and marriage requirement in question is outdated and overly restrictive, instead working against many aspiring groups of producers,” said Rural Coalition Executive Director Lorette Picciano. “The Future Farmers and Ranchers of Tomorrow Act opens a new door by removing these restrictions, demonstrating our shared commitment to supporting this incoming generation of farmers and ranchers.” 

Senator Welch has led efforts in the Senate to protect farmland for future generations of Vermont farmers and help younger people become farmers and ranchers. In Vermont, 94% of farms are family-owned and operated, with many farmers passing on their businesses and industry experience to younger family members. But for beginning farmers who are not related by blood or marriage, starting a farming operation requires substantial financial investment, and without the help of the federal government, most won’t be able to begin their farming career. With just 9% of producers under the age of 35, expanding opportunities for younger generations of farmers and aspiring young farmers will be vital to the longevity and success of farming businesses and operations. 

The Future Farmers and Ranchers of Tomorrow Act is endorsed by the American Sustainable Business Network, Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico Global, Farm Action Fund, Grupo Amor, Land Loss Prevention Project, Latino Farmers and Ranchers International Inc., National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Family Farm Coalition, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Coalition, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT), and Transfarmation Project. 

Learn more about the bill. 

Read the full text of the bill.