FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011 Dear Mr. Van Meter:
The USDA has set a goal of 100,000 new farmers in the next few years. As co-author of SPIN-Farming Basics, I know this is do-able because this book has already helped hundreds of new farmers get started in business. SPIN stands for small plot intensive, and it is a sub-acre production system that greatly reduces the amount of land needed for commercial crop production. It is also low capital intensive, eliminating financial barriers to entry. It therefore makes a farming career possible for anyone, anywhere, as long as there are markets to support them.
SPIN farmers start in their backyards, front lawns and neighborhood lots, and starting small increases their chances of success. A next step for many of them is to scale up, grow year round, diversify into value add or livestock, cooperate with other farmers. They are beyond bootstrapping, and Farm Credit has an excellent opportunity to grow the number of successful farmers in this country if it focuses on them. I therefore urge the Farm Credit System to:
1. Commit to a minimum investment goal for local and regional food producers of 10% of the institution’s capital within 5 years.
2. Make the marketing plan and periodic progress reports public to encourage other farm entrepreneurs to start.
3. Provide staff development training to FCS personnel across the full spectrum of lending, accounting, farm transfer and business planning services appropriate for serving entrepreneurial local and regional food producers.
4. Develop lending and business support products with terms and benefits appropriate for entrepreneurial local and regional food producers.
5. Require an inventory of strengths and weaknesses of the entrepreneurial local and regional food infrastructure within the bank’s territory and a plan for leveraging the public and private capital necessary to address those weaknesses.
I urge the Farm Credit System to start rebuilding regional food systems that will create economic opportunity for a new generation of food producers that are ready and willing to be put to work. Every day, I see more and more aspiring first generation farmers investing in their careers by purchasing our book and online information. I urge you to invest in them.