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USDA Program Can Help Grow Next Generation of Indiana Farmers

Cindy Cornett Seigel

The average age of Indiana farmers is 56, and as their retirement nears, there is a need to get the next crop of farmers up and running.

In Indiana and round the nation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $18 million to help educate and develop the next generation of agribusinesses. The funding is in the 2014 Farm Bill, under the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program.

Traci Bruckner, senior associate for agriculture and conservation policy for the Center for Rural Affairs, said the program is a great starting point for people who want to farm.

"It provides support to organizations and land-grant universities and other agencies," she said, "to provide mentoring and training for the next generation of farmers and ranchers."

In Indiana, nearly 56,000 farms currently produce a variety of products including corn, soybeans, pork and cattle. Bruckner said those who want more information can contact the Center for Rural Affairs.

It's difficult for young people today to get started farming and ranching, Bruckner said, adding that this program helps them identify what they need to do and learn to achieve that goal.

"A lot of these folks don't really know where to start and how to get started," she said, "so these training and mentoring programs can really help them identify what their values are, how they can connect that to getting started in farming and, really, help connect them to those opportunities."

Bruckner said the new crop of growers and ranchers come from all different kinds of backgrounds.

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