Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced grants to 40 organizations throughout the country to provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers that will help them run successful and sustainable farms.

"Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges, and these efforts will help provide the training needed to ensure these producers become profitable and sustainable," said Merrigan. "As the average age of farmers today is 57 and continues to rise, we must do everything we can to recruit a new generation of people to produce our food. They will continue to play an important part of American agriculture as they feed people in their local communities and, in some cases, throughout the world."

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). BFRDP is an education, training, technical assistance and outreach program designed to help U.S. farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming or ranching for 10 years or fewer. Under the program, which was established through the 2008 farm bill, NIFA will make grants to organizations that will implement programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers.

BFRDP provided $18 million in funding this year. This is the second year of the program, and $18 million will be made available in fiscal years 2011 and 2012. In FY 2009, BFRDP made 29 awards for approximately $17 million.

For more information on the BFRDP program, visit: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/bfrdp/bfrdp.html.