By Dirk Aaron
Bell County Extension
The agriculture community is still reeling financially from the problems associated with drought and heavy rainfall this year. The opportunity for profit has been a complete zero if you are actively involved in agriculture production in Central Texas.
Yet, those involved with agriculture are optimistic as we move into the winter and spring. The soil profile moisture is at adequate levels to finish planting wheat and oats; and our farmers with intent to raise these crops for grain are moving into the final window of planting for spring harvest. The rainfall data at the extention office over the last few weeks shows a total of 8.8 inches of rain for October. Rain was scattered throughout the county with the low 8.8 inches at the extension office, and a high of 11.57 at Harker Heights.
In other news, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced that the Texas Department of Agriculture now offers grants to young farmers interested in creating or expanding an agricultural operation in Texas.
"Farming is a difficult and challenging business, especially for young farmers," Commissioner Staples said. "By working with the Texas Legislature, the Texas Department of Agriculture has developed more tools for Texas producers, including the new Young Farmer Grant Program, to help young farmers thrive in the second largest agricultural state in the nation."
Additional information can be found at the Texas Department of Agriculture's Web site at www.TexasAgriculture.gov.
In 2009, the state legislature authorized the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority to establish the Young Farmer Grant Program. The program comes at a critical time for Texas agriculture when farmers and ranchers are challenged with economic uncertainties, tight credit and drought. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the average age of Texas farmers is rising, with only 6 percent of the state's farm operators under 35 years old. This raises concerns about who will replace our food and fiber producers when they retire.
Commissioner Staples also worked with state legislators during the 81st legislative session to make significant improvements to other programs within TAFA, which provides financial assistance to creditworthy individuals and businesses through partnerships with banks or other agricultural lending institutions. TAFA includes four programs designed for eligible applicants who wish to establish or enhance their farm or ranch operation, or establish an agriculture-related business.
Young Farmers Grant
TAFA offers a grant program to encourage individuals who are at least 18, but younger than 46 years of age, to start or expand their own agricultural business in Texas. The applicant must be able to make dollar-for-dollar matching expenditures to sustain, create or expand the proposed project. Individual grants may range from $5,000 to $10,000.
Agricultural Loan Guarantee
TAFA provides financial assistance through loan guarantees to eligible applicants who wish to establish or enhance their farm or ranch operation, or establish an agriculture-related business. The program provides guarantees, based on a tiered structure, not to exceed $750,000 or 70 percent of the loan amount. The program also provides an interest rebate 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. Any person who proposes to use the proceeds under this program to help foster the creation and expansion of an agricultural business in Texas is eligible.
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 18 years old or older, but younger than 46, and who proposes to use the proceeds to help foster the creation and expansion of an agricultural business in Texas.
The TAFA board will set two periods in each fiscal year, during early winter and summer, to receive and approve grant applications for the Young Farmer Grant Program. The current application deadline is Dec. 4.
For more information, visit www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on Grants/Funding.