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Annie's Project to Develop Farm Transitioning Course with USDA and Farm Credit Services of America

Oct 31, 2011

Omaha, Nebraska – (October 31, 2011) – Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) has pledged its support of Annie’s Project and the USDA NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The project will deliver farm transitioning and business management training courses for women farmers and ranchers. The in-kind contribution provides a representative from FCSAmerica to serve on the advisory committee and covers costs to host the pilot program. The total pledge for the three-year corporate commitment is $24,000.

Course development
Women farmers and ranchers wanting to learn more about transition planning will benefit from the program that recently received USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture funding. A team from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will partner with FCSAmerica, along with other Farm Credit Associations to develop the new course and deliver pilot programs. To maintain the integrity of Annie’s Project, the newly funded course curriculum will build on the successful educational methodologies of the standard course and the strengths of partners and collaborators.

Angie Loew, Farm Credit Services of America financial officer in Carroll, Iowa, is a member of the curriculum development team. “I’ve worked with farmers for 24 years, know their questions and have seen the need for transitioning information,” Loew said. “Offering a state-level curriculum that involves local professional educators in the program delivery will better position families as they begin transitioning their operations.”

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the winning proposals for the 2011 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grants on September 30. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Annie’s Project proposal, Farm Transition and Business Management Training for Women Farmers and Ranchers, was awarded $675,750 for curriculum development and delivery of courses. FCSAmerica joins The Farm Credit Council http://www.fccouncil.com/ and ten other Farm Credit Associations to provide a total of nearly $200,000 in support of the project.

Gary Matteson, Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning and Small Farmer Programs, calls the System’s support a tremendous opportunity for helping farmers succeed. “Nationally, we can generate enthusiasm for Annie’s Project and encourage partners to get on board,” said Matteson. “Locally, the Farm Credit Associations bring knowledge of community financial issues to the customization of this course that allows women to learn in the best possible environment and form networks with people that can help them solve problems.” The Farm Credit National Contributions Program is providing additional project support for participant materials and risk management awareness campaigns.

Annie’s Project, an agricultural risk management education program for women, was started by Ruth Hambleton in 2003 when she was a University of Illinois Extension farm business management and marketing specialist. Hambleton recognized that the unique learning preferences of women often are not served through traditional farm management education programs. Annie’s Project, created in tribute to Hambleton’s mother, Annette “Annie” Fleck, sets up multi-session courses in farm communities. The sessions focus on five areas of risk management from production and marketing to finances, legal issues and human resources. Annie’s Project has successfully reached more than 8,000 women farmers and ranchers in 26 states.

Charlotte Heidelberger, of Coin, Iowa, understands how Annie’s Project classes are customized to meet local needs. She has been sole manager of her farm since her husband Gary’s unexpected death in 2006. In 2005 she enrolled in Annie’s Project to learn more about farm finances and marketing – sensitive areas where the couple sometimes had differing opinions. “We were looking for an objective class approach where I could learn and better relate to the issues involved,” Heidelberger said. “Going and meeting with the other women energized me. Having time to ask questions always stimulated my thinking. After Gary died, Annie’s Project materials became my crutch. I took it again in 2010 because I had many more management decisions to make. The educators were always knowledgeable and enthusiastic.”

There is a significant need for education designed specifically for women farmers and ranchers to help them manage business risks, enhance the financial viability of their family farms and ranches, and strengthen the potential for beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture identified 306,209 women as primary farm operators; their average age was 59.

The transition planning courses will help women farmers and ranchers consider generational succession, retirement, estate and business planning. “Farm transitioning is not intuitive or easy to do,” said Tim Eggers, co-director for the Annie’s National Network Initiative for Educational Success. “This course will offer information from knowledgeable educators and experienced professionals to benefit women farmers and ranchers, and the future of agriculture. Receiving funding for a second level Annie’s Project course makes it possible to provide information that women have been asking for.”

The advanced Annie’s Project course will empower women to take ownership of the future of their farms and ranches, particularly as it deals with the human resources and legal aspects of transitioning. Annie’s Project gives women the kind of risk management education that prepares them to ask good questions specific to their farm or ranch needs. Through Annie’s Project, land-grant universities, the Farm Credit Council and local Farm Credit Associations support the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

About Farm Credit Services of America

Farm Credit Services of America is proud to finance the growth of rural America, including the special needs of young and beginning producers. With more than 92,000 customers and assets of $15.8 billion, FCSAmerica is one of the region’s leading providers of credit and insurance services to farmers, ranchers, agribusiness and rural residents in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Learn more at www.fcsamerica.com.

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