Friday, November 07, 2014

Young, first-generation farmers and ranchers are the future of U.S. agriculture

The future of farming and ranching is in the hands of young Americans, many of whom have little to no agriculture experience but are buying land wherever they can find it and learning farming on the fly, Teresa Wiltz reports for Stateline.

 Chris and Annie Newman quit city jobs to become
first-gen farmers 
(Stateline photo by Rollie Hudson)
"The fastest growing group of farmers and ranchers is 65 and older, according to census statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," Wiltz writes. "But the second-fastest growing group is young farmers and ranchers who are under 35. There are only about 110,000 nationwide, but they are the only age group under 55 whose numbers are increasing. Most of them are first-generation, new to the industry and trying to earn a living on independent farms. According to a National Young Farmers’ Coalition report, the vast majority of young farmers—78 percent—did not grow up on a farm."

The first hurdle for young farmers is securing land, Wiltz writes. "According to the NYFC survey, 70 percent of farmers under 30 rent farmland, compared to 37 percent of farmers over 30. Farmers who were raised on a farm were much more likely to own land—65 percent—compared to 50 percent of farmers who did not grow up farming."

Holly Rippon-Butler, land access campaign manager for the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, said "more than two-thirds of American farmland is currently being farmed by individuals who are 55 and older, who will be nearing retirement over the next couple of decades," Wiltz writes. Rippon-Butler told Wiltz, “If we don’t help the young generation of farmers get on the land, retiring farmers will quickly run out of people to sell the land to, individuals who will continue to grow food on it and treat it as farmland.”

Some states have created programs to help young, new farmers, Wiltz writes. "Missouri, Maryland and Virginia, for example, are among the states that help prospective farmers access available land, while Massachusetts, Minnesota and Delaware provide financial assistance to independent farmers who are just starting out, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures."

"In Nebraska and Iowa, landowners are offered tax incentives to sell or lease land to young farmers," Wiltz writes. "Other states are experimenting with conservation easement programs, which designate certain amounts of land as farm; developers can’t buy the land, and, for example, turn it into condos. Anyone buying the land has to use it strictly for agriculture." (Read more)

2 comments:

Frederick Smith said...

If you are a Beginning Farmer in California, California Farmlink is a non-profit focused on Access to Land and Access to Capital for the next generation of farmers. We have an online land-linking website that will allow farmers with two or more years of farming experience to contact landowners to lease properties. Once you find the right match, we will develop the lease agreement for you for free. Check us out at californiafarmlink.org.

Frederick Smith said...

If you are a Beginning Farmer in California, California Farmlink is a non-profit focused on Access to Land and Access to Capital for the next generation of farmers. We have an online land-linking website that will allow farmers with two or more years of farming experience to contact landowners to lease properties. Once you find the right match, we will develop the lease agreement for you for free. Check us out at californiafarmlink.org.