Extension economists take the lead in developing programs
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Beginning farmers across the West will soon find themselves with better business acumen.
Washington State University's Western Center for Risk Management Education has received $748,000 from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
The goal is to help beginning farmers navigate the changing business environment.
The center asked extension economists from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado to collaborate on the application to the program. WSU and Colorado State University lead the project.
Each state is evaluating its needs when it comes to business management and planning, said Mykel Taylor, WSU assistant professor and crop and tree fruit marketing economist. She is one of the project leaders. They will come up with a way of helping beginning farmers and ranchers, defined anyone with less than 10 years of experience.
"Our goal is to provide the tools, materials and education to have better ag business managers at the farm and ranch level," she said. "The anticipated impact is we have more efficient managers that are able to secure funding or financing from their lenders and manage it well."
In Washington, the Cultivating Success program offered in various counties will be updated to include issues and topics any small business owner would need to consider before starting up or requesting financing.
With the current financial situation, beginning farmers will need to demonstrate serious consideration of their plans before requesting financial lending, Taylor said.
"We have a lot of older farmers across the country. We're going to see some transitioning to younger generations," she said. "My guess is USDA wanted to make sure some education would be provided so it was a smooth transition."
The first year of the three-year project will be devoted to inventory of existing programs, leading to developing or expanding new programming. The programs will begin in the second year and third year.
"Right now is a tough time to start a business, let alone keep a business going," she said. "We want to get (farmers and ranchers) through these tougher financial times so they can be in business when things turn around for them."
Western Center for Risk Management Education: http://westrmewsu.edu