Barriers Facing Young and Beginning Farmers

Young and beginning farmers have a few more challenges to overcome than more established farmers.

The National Young Farmer’s Coalition released a study in late 2011 showing that the nation’s young and beginning farmers face tremendous barriers to start a farming career, including:

    •    78 percent of farmers ranked “lack of capital” as a top challenge for beginning farmers and another 40 percent ranked “access to credit” as the biggest challenge
    •    68 percent of farmers ranked land access as the biggest challenge faced by beginning farmers
    •    70 percent of farmers younger than 30 rented land, as compared to 37 percent of farmers older than 30

“There are certain things that are real hurdles for young people entering production agriculture right now, including the initial investment and the yearly operating expenses,” said Barry Ward, production business management leader, The Ohio State University Extension.

“An individual today can turn a profit at almost any level of size, but that is not always the case,” Ward said. “We are in an unprecedented period where commodity prices are allowing part-time and small farmers to find profitability. When we get into margins that are a bit thinner, it’s going to be a mixed bag of those individuals that want to farm full-time and the equation to make money will change considerably.”

According to an Ohio’s Country Journal article, land is a necessity for those farmers who want to pursue crop production as a career. The trend during the past decade has been established farmers securing any available acreage in their area to grow their operations. Finding good, affordable land is the biggest hurdle for a beginning farmer.

To help the nation’s younger farmers, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is targeting more funding programs toward this demographic. In February, the USDA unveiled, an online database of training and assistance programs from a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

In addition, the USDA appropriated $75 million from 2009 to 2012 to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.

Barry Ward suggests that young farmers have some off-farm employment to have some stability and recommends taking small steps at first, such as finding a rental parcel that is big enough to sustain a small equipment line, so that there isn’t too much initial overhead.

Are you or do you know a young farmer facing barriers in his/her farming practice? What do you think about the USDA’s Start2Farm online resource for young farmers? Do you have any advice to offer a young farmer?

Photo obtained from:

No comments: