By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – A new state program designed to help Idahoans remain on the farm or ranch or get into agriculture went live with a new website in March.
Called Idaho Farm and Ranch Center, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture program was created last year after Idaho lawmakers agreed to let the ISDA use existing funds to create it.
All of the services in the new program will be non-regulatory and aimed at helping families remain on the farm or assisting people who want to get into farming or ranching, according to ISDA officials.
The IFRC launched a website in early March that serves as a one-stop shop for farmer and rancher resources in Idaho and across the nation.
The website aggregates a plethora of resources in one place to make it easy for people to find them, said Anna Pratt Lickley, who manages the program out of an ISDA office on the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls.
“When someone has questions about succession planning or what services are available to veteran farmers, there’s really not a one-stop shop place for them to go to,” she said. “We wanted to aggregate all of those resources together and make them really accessible to people.”
The website – farm.idaho.gov – features such resources as financial management trainings, guidebooks and videos on succession planning, tools and tips for managing family business and a calendar of events. It also contains resources focused on beginning farmers, veteran farmers and disabled farmers.
“The ultimate goal of the website is to help farmers start, manage or transition farms and ranches in Idaho,” said Pratt Lickley, who was raised on a fifth-generation cattle operation in southeast Idaho.
Since starting as program manager of IFRC last June, she has been speaking with farmers and ranchers and others involved in the agricultural industry to get their feedback on how the website should function.
She said the website will continue to evolve as more producers provide additional feedback on how it should be formatted and what resources it should include and she welcomes comments and suggestions on how to improve it.
“We want to make sure we are doing work that is actually helping farmers and ranchers, so it’s really important that we know what they think of the website so far,” Pratt Lickley said.
The IFRC program is an idea ISDA officials have mulled over for years and, before launching it, the department formed an advisory committee to consider the idea.
The committee included member from the agriculture industry as well as representatives from the financial industry, Veterans Services, the Idaho Legislature and Idaho colleges.
Pratt Lickley said the committee gave a resounding “yes” to the idea.
“I think it’s going to be a great program,” said Stephen Parrott, who represented the ag lending industry on the advisory committee. “I’m excited about it because I think there is so much opportunity to provide resources and support to our agricultural community that is such an important part of our state’s economy.”
Robin Kelley Rausch, who owns Kelley’s Canyon Orchard outside Filer, said one of the biggest benefits of the program will be having a person dedicated to congregating all the resources valuable to new and existing farmers in one place.
There are a lot of these types of resources available now but they are spread out over a wide area and difficult for people to locate, she said.
“Having a person dedicated to congregating all the information in one place, that is where the Idaho Farm and Ranch Center can play a vital role,” Kelley Rausch said.
The website is just the beginning of the IFRC, Pratt Lickley said, and the next phase will be working on projects that farmers and ranchers across the state have asked the ISDA to work on.
One of those could include a type of Idaho farmland link program that lines up farmland seekers with farmland owners. That project could help people who want to get involved in agriculture but have difficulty finding people who are willing to sell their land, Pratt Lickley said.
“That’s one project that we’ve heard a lot of feedback on that people want us to work on,” she said.
Pratt Lickley said ISDA has also received a lot feedback from people about creating an internship program on farms and ranches to help increase the amount of new farmers and ranchers.
“We know that farmers and ranchers across the state have a ton of experience and knowledge and wisdom that they could share with people looking to get into production agriculture,” she said.
"We have wanted this program for years,” said ISDA Director Celia Gould. “There is such a strong need for resources to help Idaho's farms and ranches with planning, transitions and more.”
She said ISDA officials have heard from people across the state about their ideas, challenges and needs and some of the common elements are clear: “Keeping Idaho's farms and ranches in operation is complex and there is no one solution to the challenge. We are really glad to be delivering some of the first elements of the IFRC program, like our statewide website, but we know this is just a start. This is going to be a constantly-evolving program, and we will be learning from and responding to the agriculture industry along the way."
For more information about the IFRC program, contact Pratt Lickley by email at email@example.com.