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The University of Wyoming to Get USDA Grant

May 23

The University of Wyoming has been awarded a $670,000 federal grant by the United States Department of Agriculture to fund programs that will train future farmers and ranchers. The grant is part of a 2008 Farm Bill-authorized federal agricultural training program.

Participation in agricultural production has significantly reduced in recent years. While the business as a whole continues to thrive, the average age of American farmers is rising each year, with the current average sitting in the mid-fifties.

These trends are alarming agricultural officials, who are concerned about the industry's long-term viability. "Our farmers are aging, and more of our young people are looking outside of farming for their professions," said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan in a press statement. It's past time to change these patterns, retain farmers on the farm, and assist new farmers and ranchers to succeed."

The money will be used to expand the University of Wyoming's ranch management program, which is aimed to prepare farmers and ranchers for future positions in the agricultural business. Furthermore, the funds will be used to create new programs at the university as well as some minor scholarships to help attract college students interested in agricultural science degrees.

Ranching is very important in Wyoming, where the typical rancher is between 56 and 57 years old. Much of the state's prime grazing land is being sold to developers as older ranchers retire. State officials hope that encouraging young people to join the livestock industry will stop the bleeding. This is why some farmers are trying to seek out agricultural loans for their younger counterparts to get started.

The University of Wyoming is one of 94 institutions of higher education nationwide to receive the federal grant. Each school will receive between $50,000 and $1 million depending on the size of its program and its ability to match the federal funds. The USDA expects to award a total of $23.5 million to these schools in order to help them expand their programs and attract more students.