Young Farmers Are Ready to Defy Odds, Survey Reveals

America’s new generation of young farmers expect to overcome major barriers to their success in agriculture, including access to land, affordable health care, and mounting student loan debt, but success will require deliberate policy change at all levels of government, according to the 2017 National Young Farmer Survey. The survey was conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) in partnership with Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

“The time is now for our country to help young farmers defy the odds, preserve farming as a livelihood, and revitalize our nation’s rural economy,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director and Co-founder of NYFC. “This report proves that there are thousands of young people ready to build new farms in the United States, but we’ve got to do our part and make sure that they will succeed.”

The survey, conducted with 94 partner organizations, collected data from 3,517 current, former, and aspiring U.S. farmers under 40 years of age. In its report on the survey, NYFC finds that the top challenge cited by young farmers is land access, particularly finding and affording land on a farm income. It is also the main reason why farmers quit farming and why aspiring farmers haven’t yet started.

“America desperately needs young people to repopulate our farm and ranch lands. This survey reveals the daunting challenges they face. As policymakers sit down to write our next farm bill, I hope they pay attention to these survey findings,” Merrigan said. 

Young farmers surveyed are capitalizing on the demand for local food by selling directly to consumers and growing a diversity of crops and livestock. The survey also indicates a generation of producers strongly committed to environmental stewardship, with 75% of current young farmers describing their practices as “sustainable,” and 63% describing their farming as “organic,” though many of them have not sought certification.

Like their millennial counterparts, young farmers surveyed were highly educated and increasingly racially diverse. And despite challenges and relatively low income, the survey found high optimism: 63% of respondents said they are making or eventually would make sufficient income to meet their life goals.

How Lawmakers Can Help
Considering these findings, NYFC called on lawmakers to enact a slate of policy reforms it calls the “Young Farmer Agenda,” which includes: addressing land access and affordability; helping young farmers manage student debt; increasing the skilled agricultural workforce; enabling farmers to invest in on-farm conservation; improving credit, savings, and risk management opportunities for young farmers; and addressing racial inequity among farmers. (See full policy recommendations here.)

Consumer, Community, and Business Support Needed
“Ensuring the success of our nation’s newest farmers and ranchers requires deliberate policy change at all levels of government,” Shute said. “It also demands the support of every stakeholder—individuals, communities, and businesses.”

NYFC calls on supporters to act: Help grow your local food economy; rent or sell farmland to young and beginning farmers; enable your business to be part of the solution; and join NYFC to add your voice to the young farmer movement. 

The full survey, including the executive summary, charts, policy recommendations, and stakeholder action steps, are available at NYFC at www.youngfarmers.org.

Editor's Note: The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) is an advocacy network of young farmers fighting for the future of agriculture. Visit NYFC on the web at www.youngfarmers.org, and on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. ###

 

Comments

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
Submitted by Aaron on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 08:11

Of course we should make it happen for the MElenial generation, cause its all about them, no one gave a crap about my generation that survived the 80s and90s most of which got put out of business before the golden days of the last 8-10 years which has been the best ever in farming history, which ended up being a huge bubble, that is now deflating at a fast rate, and they got a taste of the glory without having to suffer the spoils on the way and now they want policy change to guarantee profits, HECK YEA so did I, but no one gave a crap and economics ran its course, so hear is the way I see it, fix the corp monopoly problems and gov. connection to the corp. and most of the rest will fix itself, and give me the profit I deserved for those years that no one gave a crap, and I'll be able to pass a healthy business down to the next generation. anyone think of that. HUMMMMMM

Submitted by Son-of-Butch on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 09:58

Young Farmers... LOL
In what world is YOUNG under 40 when the average male in usa is 36.1 years old?
45% of the population is under 35 and the average male is 1/2 way to dead at 38.75

The young don't even know, what they don't know.