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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.