The USDA announced it has established a new team that will lead a department-wide effort focused on serving beginning farmers and ranchers.

Each state will have a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator who will coordinate efforts between the FSA, NRCS, RMA and Rural Development. For Nebraska, that task will be handled by Jami Thoene of Valparaiso, Nebraska.

Thoene is with the NRCS. In a press release, the USDA explained that her work as a resource conservationist at the USDA Service Center in Wahoo, Nebraska, has given her the opportunity to work directly with beginning farmers.

“The USDA has been working with new and beginning farmers for a while,” Thoene said. “This new position being created cements the agency’s commitment.”

Her involvement in the program has progressed organically. She comes from a farm family. After getting married, she and her husband began seeking farmland to start their own agricultural business.

“I’m a ‘renewed’ farmer,” she said. “I have a degree in ag ed. Then, I worked for the NRCS.”

The couple finally found some land to call their own. While going through the process of applying for a beginning farmer loan, she said she felt like there was some pushback since she was a non-traditional farmer.

Now, she hopes to guide other beginning farmers around the obstacles and pitfalls she dealt with. She said she hopes to encourage other aspiring farmers and help anyone who is struggling with the difficulties she experienced. She helps people find the information they will need to navigate the procedure, she said.

“I have been through the process,” Thoene said. “Some people who apply don’t realize they have too much off-farm income; the better they understand the process, the easier it will be for them.”

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, 27% of farmers were categorized as new and beginning producers, with 10 years or less of experience in agriculture.

“I love seeing new, beginning farmers be successful,” Thoene said. “I know what if feels like.”

The USDA states that they offer a variety of farm loan, risk management, disaster assistance and conservation programs to support beginning farmers and ranchers. To learn more about the USDA’s resources for beginning farmers, visit newfarmers.usda.gov and farmers.gov.

“We have a great team,” Thoene said.

Jon Burleson can be reached at jon.burleson@lee.net.