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Conference Name Beginning Women Farmers

Mary Ahearn

Summary

USDA has several programs designed to support beginning farmers and ranchers (BFRs), and these have expanded under the 2008 Act to address public policy concerns about the availability of safe and affordable food and barriers to entry into farming.

As is true with established farmers, the majority of beginning farmers are white, nonHispanic, and male. However, compared to established farmers, beginning farmers are generally more diverse. Beginning farmers also operate smaller farms than established farmers and are engaged in different specializations. Consequently, they face somewhat different challenges in managing their risks.

More than 40 percent of farms in the U.S. have at least one operator who is a woman but about one-quarter of those farms have principal operators who are women. Women farmers in this presentation will include those who self-identify as the principal operator of their farm or ranch and those that indicate that they are operators, but not the principal operator of the business.

The purpose of this presentation will be to describe how beginning women farmers differ from beginning male farmers in terms of their financial performance and risk management strategies, including debt loads, land tenure, management of the farm, off-farm work, marketing strategies, and participation in government programs. This presentation will build on a 2009 ERS report (i.e., Beginning Farmers and Ranchers) and additional analysis by the author using USDA┬┤s national survey of farmers, the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS).

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