In an effort to assist with the challenges associated with starting or expanding a farming or ranching operation in Texas, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced the availability of an additional $100,000 in grants through the Texas Department of Agriculture's Young Farmer Grant Program. The program, which has already awarded $100,000 to 13 eligible farmers this year, is designed to help young farmers enter or enhance a production agriculture career.

"As our population increases, we must do what we can to recruit new agriculture producers and assist current ones with expanding operations to meet the growing demand on our food and fiber supplies," Staples said. “Starting a career in production agriculture is a huge financial investment, and through the Young Farmer Grant Program we can help give young farmers the capital they need to start or expand much-needed operations.”

Young Farmer Grants are available to individuals who are at least 18, but younger than 46. Applicants must make dollar-for-dollar matching expenditures to sustain, create or expand the proposed projects. The individual grant limit per application is $10,000. The current application deadline is May 14.

In 2009, Staples proposed, and the 81st Texas Legislature authorized, the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority (TAFA) to establish the Young Farmer Grant Program. Figures from the 2007 Census of Agriculture show the average age of Texas farmers is increasing. Farmers ages 25 to 34 make up just 5 percent of Texas farmers, while farmers under 25 account for just 1 percent. The rising age of Texas farmers, combined with the small number of young people choosing farming as an occupation, raises concerns about filling the gaps of providing food and fiber in the future.

In addition to the Young Farmer Grant Program, TAFA includes three programs designed for eligible applicants who wish to establish or enhance a farm or ranch operation, or establish agriculture-related businesses:

• Agricultural Loan Guarantee: This program provides guarantees based on a tiered structure not to exceed $750,000 or 70 percent of the loan amount, whichever is less. The program also provides an interest rebate of up to $5,000 per year to eligible borrowers as part of the guarantee process.

• Interest Rate Reduction: TAFA can facilitate commercial lending that may result in below-market interest rates. Eligible applicants must intend to use the proceeds under this program in a manner that will help foster the creation and expansion of a Texas agricultural business.

• Young Farmer Interest Rate Reduction: Even more beneficial than the standard interest rate reduction program, the Young Farmer Interest Rate Reduction program offers young farmers greater rate reductions through TAFA. The program is open to any person at least 18, but younger than 46, who proposes to use the proceeds to help foster the creation and expansion of a Texas agricultural business.

For more information about the Young Farmer Grant and other TAFA programs, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on Grants/Funding.