USDA stands up new team to better serve beginning farmers, ranchers in South Dakota

Staff reports
Farm Forum

HURON, S.D. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is standing up a new team that will lead a department-wide effort focused on serving beginning farmers and ranchers.

To institutionalize support for beginning farmers and ranchers and to build upon prior agency work, the 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to create a national coordinator position in the agency and state-level coordinators for four of its agencies — Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency, and Rural Development.

Gail Gullickson was selected as the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher state coordinator in South Dakota. Over the past 27 years, Gullickson has assisted South Dakota Farm Service Agency farmers and ranchers as a farm loan officer and state outreach coordinator. She and her family have a small crop and livestock operation near Flandreau, S.D.

Others on the team coordinating South Dakota’s beginning farmers and rancher efforts include:

John Lockie, risk management specialist with the Risk Management Agency.

Jessica Michalski, state resource conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Roxanne Woodring, Rural Development Specialist with Rural Development.

This is a collateral duty for all team members.

Each state coordinator will receive training and develop tailored beginning farmer outreach plans for their state. Coordinators will help field employees better reach and serve beginning farmers and ranchers and will also be available to assist beginning farmers who need help navigating the variety of resources USDA has to offer.

More on beginning farmers

Twenty-seven percent of farmers were categorized as new and beginning producers, with 10 years or less of experience in agriculture, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

The USDA offers a variety of farm loan, risk management, disaster assistance, and conservation programs to support farmers, including beginning farmers and ranchers. Additionally, a number of these programs have provisions specifically for beginning farmers, including targeted funding for loans and conservation programs as well as waivers and exemptions.

More information

Learn more about USDA’s resources for beginning farmers as well as more information on the national and state-level coordinators at For more information on available programs in your area, contact your local USDA Service Center.