Note: The Agricultural Act of 2014 provides support to beginning farmers and ranchers by increasing funding for beginning farmer development, facilitating farmland transition to the next generation of farmers, and improving outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities. ERS has published Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications that looks at the Act’s new programs and provisions; see the section on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.
For over a decade, specific Federal farm programs have targeted assistance based on the characteristics of farm families. This strategy is in contrast to the more typical policy approach of establishing eligibility for farm programs based on crops produced, conservation goals, or disaster relief.
Preferential treatment under one or more farm programs is based on the following personal characteristics of farmers and ranchers:
- Years of farming experience, that is, beginning farmers and ranchers.
- Membership in demographic groups whose members may have been subjected to gender, racial, or ethnic prejudices. These individuals are jointly referred to as socially disadvantaged farmers.
- Farm families with low financial resources, referred to as limited-resource farmers.
ERS research on this topic includes the following:
- Analyzing the financial performance and characteristics of the businesses, operators, and households of beginning, socially disadvantaged, and limited-resource farms.
- Assessing the participation of these "targeted" farms in Federal farm programs and the impact that the preferential treatment given to targeted farmers has on the distribution of program assistance.
- Examining trends in farm business exit and entry.