New USDA, SCORE mentorship program supports beginning farmers
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
DES MOINES – A mentor plants the seeds of knowledge, and mentoring is becoming a precious resource in rural America as the older generation prepares to pass the torch to a new generation.
That’s why the United States Department of Agriculture has signed a new agreement with SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to support new and beginning farmers.
“Our new motto at USDA is ‘do right and feed everyone,'” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who signed a memorandum of understanding with SCORE officials during the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines on Aug. 5. “We’re encouraging experienced farmers to join with SCORE to be mentors for young people.”
The new agreement provides resources for beginning ranchers, veterans, women and others to help them grow and thrive in agri-business. This joint initiative leverages SCORE’s 10,000 existing volunteer mentors and USDA’s expertise and presence in agricultural communities to bring no-cost business mentoring to rural and agricultural entrepreneurs.
“Shepherding one generation to the next is our responsibility,” Perdue said. “We want to help new farmers, veterans, and people transitioning from other industries to agriculture. They need land, equipment and access to capital, but they also need advice and guidance. That’s what SCORE is all about.”
SCORE matches business professionals and entrepreneurs with new business owners to mentor them through the process of starting up and maintaining a new business. USDA and its partners across rural America are working with SCORE to support new farming and ranching operations and identify and recruit mentors with a wealth of agricultural experience.
“We’re excited to extend SCORE’s impact to our farmers and the agriculture industry,” said Steve Records, vice president of field operations for SCORE. “The partnership allows SCORE and USDA to provide America’s farmers with added support to lead to sound business operations, create profitable farms with sustainable growth and create new jobs.”
SCORE mentors will partner with USDA and a wide array of groups already serving new and beginning farmers and ranchers, including FFA, 4-H, cooperative Extension, land-grant universities, non-profits, banks, farm advisors and more. These partnerships will expand and integrate outreach and technical assistance between current and retired farmers and agri-business experts and new farmers.
“I encourage you to get involved and help young people who are passionate about a career in agriculture,” Perdue said.
Anyone interested in being a mentor can get more information and sign up on the USDA New Farmers’ website at newfarmers.usda.gov/mentorship.
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