How to help create America’s next generation of farmers is the topic of a two-day forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center.
“The Drake Forum on America’s New Farmers: Policy Innovations and Opportunities,” will be held Thursday, March 4, and Friday, March 5, at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“Drake is thrilled to convene a national discussion among stakeholders on new and beginning farmer policy issues,” said Professor Neil Hamilton, director of Drake Law School’s Agricultural Law Center. “The increasing age of America’s farm population and the concentration of land with older landowners makes the question of how to create new farm operations one of the most critical in the future of our food and farming system.”
“We hope the ideas and conversations at the forum will generate an agenda to increase the commitment needed to develop the programs and public support for a national initiative to sow in the next generation of American farmers,” Hamilton added.
The forum will include 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.
In attendance will be nearly 180 participants representing 30 states and more than 50 presenters and keynote speakers, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who will discuss “America’s New Generation of Farmers.”
One goal for the forum is to address the issue of inadequacies in policies and programs for new and beginning farmers. In a pre-forum survey conducted by Drake’s Agricultural Law Center, 92 percent of participants indicated that these programs are inadequate.
Hamilton and Matt Russell, food policy project coordinator at Drake’s Agricultural Law Center, who was appointed to the Iowa Farm Services Agency Committee by President Obama, will bring eight Drake Law students to the forum. The students are among over 40 attendees who received scholarships from Drake to attend.
“We are very pleased to bring so many Drake law students to Washington, D.C., to be involved in discussions with others from around the nation on this critical issue,” Hamilton said. “The new farmers our nation needs will be the community members these young lawyers will serve once they graduate.”
Drake students — Rachel Dettman, Emily Zerkel, Michael Traxinger; Kale Van Bruggen, Timothy Reilly, Beth Dooley, Brooke Miller and Allie Condra — will join other forum attendees including:
- Congressional and United Sates Department of Agriculture staff
- Recipients of USDA beginning farmer development grants
- Representatives from farm credit, banking and financial services
- State agricultural officials and farm transition networks
- Representatives of farming and commodity organizations
- Educators, trainers and students from colleges and universities
In addition, several recent Drake law graduates will speak at the forum, including Bill Even, the secretary of agriculture for South Dakota.
The conference is made possibly by support from the USDA Risk Management Agency; 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.