USDA Launches Mentorship Initiative to Help Farms, Ranches and Local Rural Businesses

Acquiring the necessary expertise to successfully run a business in any industry takes time. Without the proper guidance, the trial and error method is costly in terms of time, capital and other resources. The launch of a mentorship initiative between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and SCORE will support new farmers and ranchers so they can avoid these mistakes. The announcement was part of the National Farmers Market Week
, which will be running from August 6 to 12.

USDA and SCORE Mentorship Program

The USDA and SCORE, a national nonprofit volunteer network of expert business mentors, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) towards the mentorship program
. It will support veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans and others with the tools and resources they need to grow and succeed in agri-business.

The USDA, SCORE and its partners will identify, recruit and support mentors across rural America. The program will bring in the Future Farmers of America, 4-H, cooperative extension and land grant universities, nonprofits, legal aid groups, banks, technical and farm advisors.

As the largest volunteer network of mentors, SCORE has been helping small businesses for more than 50 years. In 2016 alone, the mentors of the organization helped clients start 54,072 businesses. And the mentorship SCORE provides also helps existing businesses. AGallup survey revealed 61.8 percent of clients said they changed their current business strategies after meeting with SCORE counselors.

So What Can Farmers and Ranchers Expect?

The most important aspect of the mentorship program is the people offering their wealth of agricultural experience. They will be available for beginners to support new farming and ranching operations, bringing years of proven practices. Current and retired farmers, as well as agri-business experts with new technologies will expand and integrate outreach and technical assistance.

Agricultural entrepreneurs, community-based organizations, cooperative extension and land grant universities will have access to the mentorship at no-cost. This includes current farmers and ranchers.

In highlighting the importance of this program, Sonny Perdue, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, said, “Shepherding one generation to the next is our responsibility. We want to help new farmers, veterans, and people transitioning from other industries to agriculture.” He goes on to say, “They need land, equipment, and access to capital, but they also need advice and guidance. That’s what SCORE is all about.”

For its part, SCORE will make 10,000 existing volunteer mentors available along with the USDA’s expertise in agricultural and the many communities across the country.

How a SCORE Mentorship Works

Whether you are a beginning farmer, rancher or any other agri-business, SCORE provides free confidential, one-on-one mentorship. When you make your request for a mentor, the organization will find you the person with the skill sets you need help with. This can be plan development, marketing strategies, cash flow management, tax planning, and more.

According to SCORE, it takes 72 hours to pair you with a mentor
who will help through all or specific stages of your operations.

Image: USDA

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