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John Shea, 202-690-0437


WASHINGTON, Mar 23, 2010 - USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), Drake University, and other partners held a national forum for America’s new farmers. RMA Associate Administrator Barbara Leach spoke on March 4 at the opening of the 2-day forum, which was organized byDrake University's Agricultural Law Center. More than 200 people from 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada participated.

The forum included panel discussions on obstacles facing new farmers, the challenge of access to land, the availability of finance and credit, creating new markets, and implementing the 2008 Farm Bill.

Associate Administrator Leach spoke about crop insurance and specialty crops, and RMA's Risk Management Education Division Farm Risk Plans Web site designed especially for farmers and ranchers. “RMA is committed to assisting beginning farmers,” said Leach.

The forum included 53 presenters and keynote speakers, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa who discussed America’s new generation of farmers.

The forum addressed inadequacies in policies and programs for new farmers. In a pre-forum survey, 88 percent of participants indicated that existing programs do not adequately meet the needs of new farmers.

"We are very pleased so many people took the time to meet in Washington, D.C., to discuss this critical issue," Professor Neil Hamilton, Director, Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center, said. “The energy and ideas shared by the participants provide the basis for more robust and effective new farmer policies.”

RMA; Farm Credit; the National Center for Agricultural Law Research; the Center for Applied Sustainability at the Walton School of Business, University of Arkansas; the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University; and the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust supported the forum.