The other day I decided to reach out to a couple of sustainable agriculture organizations in western Massachusetts to encourage them to think about a beginning farmer IDA program.
Living out in the sticks (rural Vermont, that is), I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of matched savings accounts to assist start-up farmers. I’ve written a couple of times on this blog about the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Program funding in last year’s Farm Bill, which was included as a $5 million per year item, although the actual dough has yet to be included in an appropriations bill, which is required before the Department of Agriculture can launch the program.
I haven’t heard back from either of the people I emailed, so perhaps they don’t find it such an interesting idea. But today I came across an organization called California FarmLink, and they seem to like the idea enough that they went out and started a farmer IDA program back in 2003 before the recent federal Farm Bill program was even a glimmer in some congressman’s eye. Indeed, it sounds like the success of their program (and their advocacy efforts) played a significant role in convincing congress to include the beginning farmer IDA program in the Farm Bill.
Now they’re organizing an advocacy effort around getting the $5 million program into the 2010 appropriations bill. I plan to put in a call to my congressmen, and I urge others to do the same.
Click here to get the details from California FarmLink.