U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue signs the agreement for the SCORE program.

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is touting a new program designed to find mentors for beginning farmers.

“New farmers, veterans, those who are transitioning to agriculture from other careers face distinct challenges. They need land. They need equipment. They need access to capital,” Perdue said, “and they need someone to turn to with their questions.”

Perdue spoke Saturday in Des Moines at the Iowa Ag Summit, touting the U.S.D.A.’s new partnership with a group called SCORE — the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

“It’s a non-profit organization providing education, training, mentoring for small businesses to increase their likelihood of success, so it’s another milestone moment in building that legacy for agriculture,” Perdue said. “We’re starting it right here in the great state of Iowa.”

Perdue said the U.S.D.A. will help recruit people in Iowa who will provide “no cost” advice on starting a farming operation. The program will eventually expand to other states. A mentor who is “at the shoulder” of a beginning farmer can steer them away from the pitfalls of getting too deeply in debt, according to Perdue.

“The combines that we have to field, the land, the rent, the inputs — the fertilizer, seeds and other things, it’s a business,” Perdue said. “And it’s not necessarily a small business.”

AUDIO of Perdue’s keynote speech at Iowa Ag Summit, 35:00

Perdue is on a five-state tour of the Midwest. He visited the Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport on Sunday. On Saturday morning, Perdue toured Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield before delivering the keynote speech at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines.

On Saturday afternoon, Perdue visited Living History Farms in Urbandale and he tweeted about seeing steam engine tractors, threshing and watching a baseball game played by the original rules. Perdue is making stops in Illinois today.