The Texas Department of Agriculture has awarded $100,000 through the Young Farmer Grant Program to 16 young farmers who will create or expand agriculture businesses in Texas to help feed a growing population. The funds, which are being awarded for the second time in 2010, are given to agriculture producers ages 18 to 46.

"With the world population expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, the role of the American farmer and rancher has never been so important," Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Drew DeBerry said. "According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, we must increase farm production by 70 percent to sustain our world's future population. In Texas, programs like the Young Farmer Grant Program will help us inspire young producers and give them the tools to help feed the world."

The average age of the Texas farmer is 59. It is critical to recruit more young farmers and ranchers to the industry if America wants to continue to produce the safest and most affordable food supply in the world. The Young Farmer Grant Program was created in 2009 and is administered by TDA through the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority (TAFA). Since TAFA's creation in 1987, the program has provided financial assistance to individuals and businesses through partnerships with banks or other agricultural lending institutions.

"We've always loved agriculture," said Trent Thompson, a farmer in Comanche County, who, along with his wife, was awarded a TAFA grant during the first round. "It's a hard business to get into when you're young. We couldn't have done it without this grant. You have to start somewhere and the grant made our start a lot easier and made it happen."

For a complete list of award recipients for the second round of grants click here. For more information about the Young Farmer Grant Program and other TAFA programs, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and look under Most Popular Links.