Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Average age of American farmers is increasing partly because they can't afford to retire, farmer-columnist writes

Art Thicke, 66, and his wife Jean, of LaCrescent, Minn., were
featured in a recent story in the Winona Daily News about aging
farmers in Minnesota. (Daily News photo by Andrew Link)
The average age of American farmers keeps going up, and one big reason is that older farmers can't afford to retire, Richard Oswald reports for The Daily Yonder. Declining prices for grain, oilseeds and cattle, combined with high input costs and rent, make it hard for farmers to make a profit. So a farmer who wants to retire can often only make money from selling machinery and land. That leaves farmers with no retirement fund if they pass that land and machinery on to the next generation. And farmers get hit with taxes either way, Oswald writes: "Everything Granddad owns is subject to local taxes and debt repayments if he keeps it, or capital gains and income taxes if he sells it."

The situation is especially bleak for small farmers, who tend to be most in debt. A family farm with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's reported average 12 percent debt-to-asset ratio owes about $200,000. And those who don't have debt likely make far too little profit to benefit from the increased inheritance tax exemptions in the recent tax overhaul, which were touted by Republicans as a boon to family farmers.

"It’s a problem that’s likely to continue until a money-following, PAC-driven Congress obsessed with problems of the ultra-rich finally sees the problems real farmers face," Oswald reports.

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