Small farms are missing out on government research dollars according to a new study by the Center for Rural Affairs. The study found that of the five-hundred million dollars spent on four U.S. Agriculture Department research and grant programs, only five-percent went to small- and mid-sized farmers or beginning farmers.
Kim Leval, the center’s senior policy analyst, says that’s a major concern. “Every year the average age of farmers increases by about a year,” Leval says. Right now, the average age of the American farmer is about 57. Without federal support for beginning farmers, Leval wonders who will be the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Leval says we all should care about having a strong agricultural economy and food security.
The report concludes that many projects that got funding were essentially research and development initiatives for large food companies. In a prepared statement, the Agriculture Department responded that two of the programs are not specifically targeted at small producers. The agency also pointed to a new technical assistance grant program started this year for small farmers.