Big Sky Connection - Advocates are calling for better access to land for farmers who have traditionally been underrepresented. They are calling for a bipartisan House resolution to be part of the upcoming Farm Bill, scheduled for debate at the end of the month. Comments from Andrew Bahrenburg (BARE un berg), deputy policy administrator, American Farmland Trust.
Click on the image above for the audio. The United States has fewer than 49,000 Black farmers, accounting for 1.4% of the country's 3.4 million producers, according to the latest Census of Agriculture. (Adobe Stock)
September 14, 2023 - With the new Farm Bill debate scheduled for later this month, advocates are calling on lawmakers to write new policy into the measure to ensure more access to farmland for people who have historically been denied.
Montana is already part of a national program making more land available to Indigenous farmers and ranchers. Supporters of a bipartisan House resolution said it would expand land ownership opportunities to historically underserved farmers. The bipartisan resolution would seek to remove barriers faced by young, beginning and historically underrepresented farmers and ranchers in Montana and around the country.
Andrew Bahrenburg, deputy policy administrator for the American Farmland Trust, said having access to land has been a longtime problem and remains the number one hurdle for aspiring farmers today.
"That's even more true for farmers of color, historically disadvantaged and marginalized producers," Bahrenburg pointed out. "Really across the board, including multi-generation farmers."
As part of a plan to address underserved farmers and ranchers, Montana is part of a national, $300 million U.S. Department of Agriculture program, which will set aside 2,500 acres of grazing land for five farmers on the Chippewa Cree Tribe of The Rocky Boy Reservation in the north-central part of the state.
Bahrenburg acknowledged rural America is facing a huge shift in land ownership, and working with local organizations to increase access to farmland is timely and critical.
"The average age of farmers in the U.S. is almost 60 years old," Bahrenburg pointed out. "We are as a nation hurtling toward a massive generational handoff off of hundreds of millions of acres of farmland. "
The resolution calls for better access and more equal opportunity for underserved farmers. Advocates want it to be folded into the new Farm Bill, which is scheduled to be debated later this month.