Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New Approach to Beginning Farmer and Rancher Issues

New Approach to Beginning Farmer and Rancher Issues

Fewer than 70,000 young people will farm by 2007 with current trends – it is imperative for the next farm bill to change that outcome

by Traci Bruckner, Center for Rural Affairs,

The 2007 farm bill is the means by which genuine opportunity for rural people and a future for communities can be achieved. Elemental to this vital effort is the existence of beginning farmers and ranchers on the land and within the community. Present trends and current obstacles are working against that very existence.

In 1978, there were approximately 350,000 farmers and ranchers 35 years old or younger in the U.S. That total has gone into a free-fall to the point that in 2002 there were less than 125,000 farmers and ranchers under 35. If the current trend line is extended, by 2007 there will be fewer than 70,000 nationwide. While the number of beginning farmers is falling, nearly half of farmers and ranchers will reach the age of 65 within the next 10 years.

It is critical that the new farm bill address beginning farmer and rancher issues. Traditional methods of farm entry and farm succession are no longer adequate to meet current challenges. There must be a new approach if we are to successfully usher in a new generation of farmers and ranchers.

One way of doing that is through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), authorized in Section 7405 of the 2002 farm bill, which would have been the first-ever USDA program other than farm credit/debt financing programs targeted specifically to beginning farmers and ranchers. This program is designed to support training, mentoring, linking, education, and planning activities to assist beginning farmers and ranchers.

However, the program was only extended discretionary funding status under the 2002 farm bill and never appropriated funds to be implemented. We believe the BFRDP should be reauthorized with $15 million in mandatory funding for the 2007 farm bill.

Escalating land values across the nation have priced most beginning farmers and ranchers out of the market for land, the most valuable commodity in any agricultural operation. The 2002 farm bill established the Beginning Farmer Land Contract pilot program to allow USDA to provide loan guarantees to sellers who self-finance the sale of land to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The 2007 farm bill should reauthorize this as a nationwide program.

The new farm bill is approaching. We need to continue developing innovative policy ideas that will better serve beginning farmers and ranchers. We need to work to build momentum behind these policies and work every day to make our voices heard on these and other issues.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 5:06 PM, Blogger theproprietor said…

    This isn't necessarily tied to your "New Approach" posting, but I thought you might agree with this piece I wrote and posted on my blog recently:


    I have a friend who designs web sites for the agri-tourism industry. “Web sites for what?” you ask. The agri-tourism industry: “agriculture” plus “tourism” equals “agri-tourism.”

    You see, in order to stay afloat financially, many family farmers have been forced to find new ways to generate income. The traditional ways of family farming just don’t generate enough income. Those who live close enough to a large city-slicker population are turning to agri-tourism, a concept that involves farmers inviting city-slickers to spend a day – or just a few hours – on a working farm.

    Now, contrary to what some people might think, two things are undeniably true about the vast majority of people who call themselves family farmers: They are not stupid, and they are not lazy. Let’s look at each of these statements:

    First, farmers are not stupid. Their research tells them that the vast majority of people in America today are growing up without ever having set foot on a real, working farm. They also know that the average city-slicker parents of small children would love to pull their kids away from the video game screen and give them an opportunity to experience something as wholesome as a day in the life of a working farm. Think “Reality TV” without the TV – which is just reality.

    Second, farmers are not lazy. Some people have the impression that farmers plant in the fall, harvest in the spring and summer and sit around collecting subsidy payments the rest of the year. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most of ‘em work from well before sunrise to well after sunset – holidays included. Enough said.

    Now, when you combine “farmers are not stupid” with “farmers are not lazy,” you find out why agri-tourism works: It allows farmers to make money coming and going:

    First, they charge admission;

    Second, they “let” others do the work of harvesting whatever fruits or vegetables happen to be in season; and,

    Finally, they charge their “workers” – by the pound, usually – for whatever they pick and send them home. No paycheck. No benefits. Just a smile.

    No, farmers are not stupid, and farmers are not lazy.

  • At 8:37 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    Bob, I certainly think your post is related to the original post. And I certainly agree with the premise.

    Also, there are real opportunities in agri-tourism and in other entreprenuerial ventures on family farms and ranches throughtout rural America.

    Thank you for your comments, if you don't mind I would like use your comments in a post on the Blog for Rural America.

    Thank you, John Crabtree,

    Center for Rural Affairs
    Values. Worth. Action.

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