Thursday, December 10, 2015

Number of farmers on state legislatures continues to decline; only 4.6% list occupation as agriculture

The number of farmers in state legislatures continues to decrease, giving the agricultural community fewer voices with firsthand farming experience, Jen Fifield reports for Stateline. Only 4.6 percent of state legislatures are farmers, down from 9.7 percent in 1976, according to a recent survey by Stateline and the National Conference of State Legislators. While the number of legislatures with farming backgrounds continues decreasing, the number with business backgrounds keeps increasing; 29.5 percent of legislators are business owners or are in accounting, insurance, real estate or other business fields.

While only one of Pennsylvania's 50 state senators are farmers, even more traditional agricultural states, like North Dakota, are seeing a decline in the number of legislators who are farmers, Fifield writes. Currently, 16 percent of North Dakota legislators are farmers, down from 42 percent in 1986. The main reason for the shift is migration, said Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.

The highest total is in Nebraska, where 22 percent list their occupation as farmer, according to the survey. In South Dakota, 17 percent of state legislatures are farmers; Montana and North Dakota, 16 percent; Iowa, 14 percent; and Idaho, 13 percent. In every other state, less than 10 percent of state legislatures are farmers. (NCSL graphic: Only 7 percent of Kansas legislatures are farmers. For an interactive version, click here)

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