LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Texas agriculture leaders are now taking applications for grants aimed at increasing the number of young farmers in the state. Applicants are eligible for up to $10,000, but there are some stipulations.
The Young Farmer Grant Program just started this year. The Texas Department of Agriculture awarded the first round of grants in February. A total of $100,000 went to 13 different farmers for various projects. One included a farm-cattle operation in Muleshoe.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says farming plays an important role in our everyday lives, but fewer young people are getting into the business. "We know that our farmers are decreasing; the number of farmers under 25 has decreased by 30% since 2002, and in Texas the average age of our farmers is older than the national average," Staples said.
The national average age for farmers is 57, while in Texas it's 59 according to the latest agriculture census. That's why the state created the young farmer program, to encourage young farmers to create or expand their operations.
With farming a major contributor to the state's economy, Staples says it is vital for people to create and expand agriculture operations. "Agriculture represents almost 10% of our state economy, and we have seen just a continuous decline. We know there are some serious issues getting into production agriculture, such as the lack of financing options and high start-up costs," Staples said.
Right now, ag adds about $100-billion to the state's economy every year and employs one out of seven working Texans according to the ag department.
The Young Farmer Grant Program is a matching grant, so applicants do have to put up a dollar for dollar match. The maximum award is $10,000, but you must be between 18 and 46 years old to apply.
The money comes from fees for farm license plates. Applications must be turned in by May 14th. The applicants are scored on a competitive basis by the Texas Agriculture Finance Authority Board.
(Click Here) for more information on the Young Farmer Grant Program from the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Copyright 2010 KCBD. All rights reserved.