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Senator co-sponsors plan to help farmers, ranchers get started

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has joined an effort to provide assistance to new farmers and ranchers.

Johnson is an original cosponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011, which would make revisions to several current Farm Bill programs and establish new initiatives specifically designed to help young producers.

The bill would extend current programs in the farm bill that encourage assistance to new farmers and ranchers, including the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentive Program, which provides incentives for retiring producers to transfer expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres to new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

Additionally, it would make it easier for beginning farmers and ranchers to participate in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program.

Beyond conservation, the bill also includes several mechanisms to assist beginning farmers and ranchers in accessing credit and obtaining direct farm ownership and operating loans. It would also expand USDA Rural Development program authority to better foster new entrepreneurial opportunities for beginning producers.

The legislation also includes provisions concerning research, education and Extension programs, and it includes a mechanism for the Risk Management Agency to make changes necessary to remove barriers and expand access to crop and revenue insurance for beginning producers.