Free Workshop To Help New Farmers, Ranchers With ABCs Of USDA, Other Agencies

   University of Missouri Extension invites beginning farmers and ranchers to attend a free workshop about resources offered by state and federal agencies.
   “Understanding the Alphabet Soup of USDA Programs” will be held 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, and 6-9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20, said Debi Kelly, MU Extension specialist. Both sessions are at Hillsboro City Hall, 101 Main St., Hillsboro.
   The first session covers funding options offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Office of Rural Development and the Farm Services Agency. During the second session, speakers will explain the process of applying for state and federal resources available to veterans. Missouri AgrAbility Project state director Karen Funkenbusch and representatives from Vocational Rehabilitation Services and other agencies will give case studies.
   “This is a great opportunity to meet your local USDA, NRCS, FSA and MU Extension representatives and learn how to get started in farming and ranching,” said Kelly. “It is also a good time to network with others interested in farming and ranching.”
Free snacks will be served. Register by April 17 by contacting Kelly at 636-797-5391 or
   MU Extension, through a grant from the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach to help veterans, Latinos and socially disadvantaged persons who want to farm, offers the program to increase agribusinesses and enterprise development. Karen Funkenbusch serves as director. Patricia Barrett, Debi Kelly and Eleazar Gonzalez serve as co-directors.
   The USDA 2501 grant helps beginning farmers and others evaluate and plan their farm enterprise. Participants attend a set of practical seminars and field days to learn from MU Extension specialists, farmers and agribusiness operators. The grant comes at a critical time,     Funkenbusch says. More than 300,000 veterans are expected to return to their rural Missouri roots in the next decade. “Many of them will seek work in agriculture,” she says. Latinos also represent one of the fastest-growing populations of new farm operators.
   USDA helps fund this program as part of an $8.4 million set of grants to 24 states through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program. “Understanding the Alphabet Soup of USDA Programs” is offered near military bases and areas identified by USDA as “StrikeForce” and “Promise Zone” initiatives as part of the grant. ∆
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